Petrol price hike criticised

By Mark HeathCOMMUNITY leaders have criticised controversial a Government plan that could see the price of petrol leap by more than 5p a gallon.Chancellor Gordon Brown appears set to confirm the price rise next month as a clause in this year's Finance Act allows him to make the levy - 1.

By Mark Heath

COMMUNITY leaders have criticised controversial a Government plan that could see the price of petrol leap by more than 5p a gallon.

Chancellor Gordon Brown appears set to confirm the price rise next month as a clause in this year's Finance Act allows him to make the levy - 1.28p a litre - without seeking further Parliamentary approval.

Hauliers have already warned the changes could spark an “autumn of discontent”, with the region braced for a repeat of the fuel depot blockades of three years ago.


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But community leaders warned people who depend on their vehicles for business will not be the only ones who would be hit by the price increase.

Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, added: “I entirely share the views of people who are thinking about protesting.

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“In Suffolk, there's no alternative to using the roads and forcing the prices up is hitting very hard at rural communities, both for families and businesses.

“We saw three years ago during the fuel crisis how angry people were and I believe that the same feeling is recurring now.

“I think what is interesting is that this comes at the same time as protests about Council Tax.

“It shows that people are starting to feel over-taxed in a way that they haven't done for many years. It all hits both at business costs and right at the heart of rural communities.”

Julian Swainson, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for sustainable environment, planning and transport, echoed Mr Yeo's concerns.

He said: “In rural counties such as Suffolk, a lot of people are dependent on cars because they have no alternative.

“So if there are moves which make travel more expensive, then we need to see measures which make public transport more accessible and cheaper in return. I look forward to the debate about that.”

Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural charity Suffolk ACRE, added: “In rural areas, it does have consequences because we are still very much a car-orientated community - we just don't have the infrastructure in terms of public transport.

“My view is that the policy of putting petrol prices up is a pretty blunt instrument.”

A spokesman for the Treasury said any decision on a possible price rise would be announced “in the proper way in due course”.

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

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