YORK trading standards staff have praised a national initiative that will help drivers get a better deal from garages.

The Good Garage code has been launched by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), five years after the successful Motor Trader Fair Trading Scheme was launched in York.

Trade associations representing 10,000 garages across the UK have given their backing to the code, which will implement a set of minimum standards of service through measures including audit checks and mystery shoppers.

The move follows a government-sponsored survey in 2002, which found that 51 per cent of garages missed one or more safety-related defects in cars or items that should have been picked up in a regular service.

Liz Levett, of York Trading Standards, said it was encouraging to see national guidelines laid down to protect drivers.

She said: "We would welcome any scheme that seeks to raise standards. I think it's a good idea to have a scheme, especially in areas where there may not be a scheme like we have here in York. York has got the icing on the cake.

"Not only do we do a thorough audit of the traders but we work with them to make improvements."

Consumer minister Melanie Johnson, said: "Consumers need to know that garages will carry out work safely and to a good standard. The introduction of a Good Garage code, backed by the OFT and overseen by an independent advisory group, will be a big step forwards in delivering a better deal for drivers."

Updated: 08:55 Monday, May 19, 2003