Failure to freeze fuel duty comes under fire from rural group

THE Chancellor’s decision not to freeze the rise in fuel duty planned for this August has come under fire from a rural campaign group.

The Countryside Alliance accused George Osborne of ‘overlooking’ the rural economy in his Budget speech today.

Executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said: “It is clear that the rural economy has been overlooked by the Chancellor today. The Countryside Alliance is broadly supportive of a simplified tax system that will be of benefit to farms and small rural businesses, and the extension of mobile coverage to 60,000 rural homes, however both measures amount to little more than a drop in the ocean when it comes to reviving the rural economy.

“Rural areas are crying out for more to be done to bring fast and reliable broadband to the countryside’s notspots, with major funding announced by the Government 18 months ago and very little evidence of any progress to date. Yet George Osborne announces funding for ‘ultra-fast’ broadband for 10 UK cities, ignoring the plight of families and businesses in the countryside forced to rely on slow or non-existent broadband connections.

“But by far the biggest slap in the face for hard-pressed rural families is the Chancellor’s decision not to freeze the rise in fuel duty planned for this August. Drivers filling up in countryside petrol stations are already paying on average 4p more than their urban counterparts for every litre, sometimes rising as high as 7 or 8 pence in certain areas. The rise in duty this autumn will force rural drivers and rural businesses to make some very tough choices about how often they use their vehicles, with potentially serious knock-on effects for the rural economy.”