Fuel prices prompt protest warnings
THE region has been warned that there may be fresh fuel protests amid fears that petrol prices could push towards nearly £1 a litre.The caution came after a weekly survey of the country's fuel prices showed that motorists in East Anglia are shelling out more for petrol than anywhere else.
THE region has been warned that there may be fresh fuel protests amid fears that petrol prices could push towards nearly £1 a litre.
The caution came after a weekly survey of the country's fuel prices showed that motorists in East Anglia are shelling out more for petrol than anywhere else.
According to the figures from Catalist, who supply data for the petrol industry, drivers in the region are currently paying an average of 86.75p for a litre of unleaded fuel, compared to 82.3p in March.
Meanwhile, it is the second most expensive area for diesel with drivers shelling out 90.48p for a litre, compared to last month when prices were under 87p.
Some of the region's steepest charges are in Cambridgeshire, around Cambridge and Ely, where unleaded is on sale at 91.9p and diesel at 93.9p - more than £4 a gallon.
The figures were announced after crude oil prices hit record levels with leading investment bank Goldman Sachs saying that strong global demand, combined with potential instability in oil producing countries could further inflate prices.
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The rises have led to fears among the haulage industry that there could be a repeat of the fuel disputes of 2000 when convoys of lorries blocked the roads in protest at prices lower than today's.
There have also been concerns voiced that even more rural garages will be forced to close because they cannot compete with the spiralling prices.
Kate Gibbs, spokesperson for the Road Hauliers Association, said: “We are expecting prices to improve because oil production levels have been on the up in the last couple of weeks but obviously this will take a while to filter down to the pumps.
“However what we will find is that when prices settle down they will settle a little bit higher than before.
“It's hard to say if there will be a return to the blockades of 2000 but there have been whisperings.
“I haven't got a crystal ball and don't know how people will react but if prices do continue to rise then who knows what will happen.
“I must stress however that protests would be a last resort.”
Meanwhile Bob Steward, owner of RT Steward hauliers in Manningtree, predicted that the fuel prices would continue to soar.
“I truly hope that we don't see a repeat of 2000 but I can see the price situation spiralling out of control and wouldn't be surprised to see us paying £1 a litre eventually,” he said.
“The current prices are scandalous. Because of the fuel revenue tax we are not on the same playing field as everyone else.
“I just hope that the general public feel that they can support us because it will eventually effect them as well.
“We will have to put prices up as a result and this will force manufacturers and shopkeepers to do the same.”
However Ray Holloway, director of the Petrol Retailers Association, said that he was more concerned with the fate of rural garages.
“I don't think we will reach the £1 a litre mark this year but it is true that prices are rising and they will continue to rise into the summer,” he added.
“I wouldn't be too worried about having the highest prices in the country because these things are cyclical. East Anglia is not being singled out - it is suffering like everywhere else.
“I would be more worried about the affect on small rural garages which unfortunately are always going to suffer. They are becoming a rarity and the situation will only get worse.”
Mr Holloway continued: “Last year 670 forecourts closed in the UK and that number will only be added to. Because of the higher petrol prices they become financially unsustainable.
“Small fuel retailers, unlike supermarkets, have to pay for their fuel up front and many will struggle to find the extra money.
“Moreover because supermarkets can subsidise fuel prices by selling food and other goods they can afford to sell petrol at a lower price.
“Small garages can't do this so prices are higher and they get a bad name for over charging motorists compared to elsewhere. However no business ever closed because they were making a profit.”