Fury as fuel prices soar

MOTORING watchdogs, hauliers and MPs joined forces yesterday to attack fuel prices in the East of England.As the average price for a litre of unleaded petrol nudges 80p in the region for the first time, many claimed the cost was unacceptable – and was particularly hitting rural motorists.

MOTORING watchdogs, hauliers and MPs joined forces yesterday to attack fuel prices in the East of England.

As the average price for a litre of unleaded petrol nudges 80p in the region for the first time, many claimed the cost was unacceptable – and was particularly hitting rural motorists.

It comes as world oil prices hit their highest levels in 14 years, sparking fears of widespread fuel protests of the like last seen during the petrol crisis in September 2000.

And Chancellor Gordon Brown also seems set to press ahead with plans to raise the tax on petrol by more than a penny this September.


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Richard Spring, MP for West Suffolk, said: “I hope that Gordon Brown will rethink this – it is a hideous tax on people that is most burdensome.

“These are very exceptional circumstances. People in rural areas are already being hit by council tax increases and this is the last thing they need.

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“We are not seeing anything like the amount of money that is raised from petrol taxation being put back into the road network.”

A spokesman for the AA in the East of England called fuel prices “extraordinary” and claimed that average families would have to fork out up to £150 extra on an annual holiday as a result.

“It is quite noticeable that the price is higher than the national average,” he added. “Consequently, you can now find prices for a litre of petrol from anything between 82 and 84 pence in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“This penalises the rural motorist, especially those who rely on their cars – and we know full well that motorists will not give up their car.

“As for fuel protests, that's a big question. Motorists are not daft and they are angry about these prices.

“We probably won't see protests in the summer but September may be an interesting diary date.”

James McElhinney, a member of the East Anglian Hauliers Group, said: “If the Government presses ahead with the proposed increase then we will have a problem.

“In the meantime, it's down to the oil companies to try and keep the prices down.”

Bob Steward, boss of hauliers R T Steward, in Lawford, said: “I think it is totally unreasonable.

“It is not the price of fuel but the fact that the government is extracting so much duty out of it that is causing the problem.”

Mr Steward said his company had written to its customers yesterday to tell them that it cannot sustain the increases and would have to put up charges.

He appealed for action but said: “There are certain people who want to cause disruption through fuel blockades but I don't think it's the right way about it.

“Everyone should write to their MP as we need to bring it to their attention.”

Michael Faiers, who owned a haulage company in Little Welnetham, near Bury St Edmunds, said: “Quite honestly I have had enough. I have sold some of my vehicles and there is one left to sell and I say good riddance to it.

“It doesn't matter what government is in, they all do the same and tax poor motorists and the haulage industry, which is the heaviest taxed industry in the country.”

Nigel Humphries, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers added: “The Government had a stroke of luck after the last fuel protests when the price of crude oil went down.

“This eased the pressure on drivers and vehicle operators, enabling the Chancellor to avoid cutting duty.

“However, that luck has now run out. How much more will drivers and vehicle operators take?”

Simon Burns, MP for Chelmsford West, said he had tabled a written parliamentary question urging the Chancellor to abandon the tax increase.

He added: “Given the situation in Iraq and the uncertainties that have caused the recent large increases in oil prices, it is unfair that motorists – particularly those on low incomes, state benefits and pensioners – should now be facing even higher petrol prices as from September.”

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