Motorists' misery as fuel prices soar

MOTORISTS in East Anglia were warned last night they could be hit hardest by rocketing fuel prices - with people in rural areas suffering the most.In some parts of the region, unleaded petrol is at almost £1 a litre, with gloomy predictions that prices will continue to rise.

By Danielle Nuttall

MOTORISTS in East Anglia were warned last night they could be hit hardest by rocketing fuel prices - with people in rural areas suffering the most.

In some parts of the region, unleaded petrol almost reached £1 a litre yesterday, and there were gloomy predictions that prices will continue to rise in the coming months.

Demand for crude oil from booming Asian giants like China remains high, and prices are unlikely to drop off until late August - meaning months of misery at the pumps for motorists and hauliers.

Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural campaign group Suffolk Acre, said rural areas would feel the pinch the most.

And an Essex MP has called on the Government to do more to help the rural motorist.

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Mr Gibson said: “Our concern is people on low incomes in rural areas are far more dependant on cars to get to jobs or to care for family or friends.

“As petrol prices go up it puts them disproportionately worse off than any other group. If you live in an urban setting, you have alternative provisions.

“If it keeps on like this then the Government will have to look at the percentage of tax they put on petrol. If they are concerned about poverty in rural areas they will have to look at it.”

Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex and former shadow transport secretary, added: “The government gets windfall gains from the increase of the oil price because of North Sea oil and VAT on road fuels - when the price goes up, the VAT goes up.

“The hard-pressed rural motorist should get some relief. Since the price of oil has been rising, the Government has stopped putting the tax rate up, but you have to ask the question 'When is it going to lower the tax?'”

Recent surveys have claimed that fuel in East Anglia already costs more than anywhere else in the country.

Jack Thain, chairman of Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said last night there was no alternative transport available for elderly people who would not be able to afford the recent hike in petrol prices. “I'm terribly concerned about this. This is a tremendous amount,” he said.

“There is no bus stop anywhere near me. The nearest bus stop is in the middle of town.

“It's got to be stopped because pensioners cannot afford these rises. The increase is far too heavy. I will be taking this up at my next meeting.”

Meanwhile, Steven Spencer, who owns Spencer's Garage in Martlesham where unleaded petrol was 99.9p a litre yesterday, explained: "I can't even buy it for what supermarkets sell it for.”

He added: “My suppliers said yesterday they were going to supply diesel to me at 107p a litre, although I think they are now working out a better price. I still serve my petrol so I have to pay a wage.

"I am on 99.9p a litre now. The grade I sell is better than the supermarket grade.

"When the warmer weather comes, prices normally settle, because the demand drops. But with the world situation as it is it looks like it can only go up."

Campaign groups nationally called on Chancellor Gordon Brown to introduce a sliding scale of fuel duty to cushion British drivers against increases in global oil prices.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Even though the Government can rightly say this is a global problem, they are still raking in more money as a result of it.”

Mr King said: “Fuel prices are normally one of the factors up there in causing inflation, and that must be a concern for the Chancellor.

“For businesses generally the bulk of goods are transported by road so therefore they rely primarily on diesel.

“They are going to be hit by the cost of delivery going up and will pass on this cost to shops, who will pass it on to the consumer.”

Ray Holloway, director of the Petrol Retailers Association, said average prices of diesel had already reached the previous high of 98.3p a litre recorded in October last year.

He went on: “I don't think that petrol will make an average of £1 a litre, but with diesel it is going to be uncomfortable and the average of £1 a litre will definitely be reached this year.”

Speaking in New York at the weekend, Mr Brown called for increased oil production to put a cap on soaring prices.

He told reporters: “Asia now takes one-third of the world's oil, where at one point a few decades ago, it only took 10%.

“The demand pressures on oil are such that we need a long-term solution to this: better transparency, more production, more drilling, more investment - more petrochemical investment in particular.

“These are the means by which we can actually get more stability into the oil markets.”

Fuel prices in East Anglia yesterday

Unleaded Diesel

Tesco, Bury St Edmunds 96.9 97.0

BP, Out Westgate, Bury 97.9 99.9

Morrisons, Ipswich 92.9 95.9

Shell, Diss 95.9 98.9

Tesco, Stowmarket 94.9 97

Spencers Garage, Martlesham 99.9 103.9

BP, Stratford St Andrew 95 97.9

Rainbow Filling Station, Halesworth 96.9 99.9

LB Shotter & Sons, Leiston 96.9 98.9

Murco, Newmarket Road, Bury 95.9 97.8

Vines Service Station, Harwich 95.9 98.9

Shell, Clacton 93.9 96.9

Asda, Colchester 93.9 96.9

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