Suffolk and Essex: Rising fuel prices hit region hard, plus fuel-saving tips

THE rising cost of petrol is having a major impact on businesses and people’s quality of life and the Government must act to tackle the issue before it gets out of hand, it has been warned.

With fuel prices reaching record highs and Suffolk County Council’s decision to scrap a string of rural bus routes, many people face becoming even more reliant on their cars to get to work.

And businesses which pay high rates are feeling the pinch as the cost of transporting goods and employees around Suffolk and Essex seems to go up every month.

Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, said the feedback he had received about fuel prices was that the Government “didn’t understand” rural communities and their needs.

He said: “I don’t have a clear solution but these continuous rises without acknowledgment of the impact on rural families and businesses, somebody should be taking this into account and I think our rural MPs should be raising that continually.”

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Sarah Candy, cabinet member for community partnerships and renewal on Tendring District Council, said that as a “peripheral” area, the district always suffered when fuel prices went up but she was confident the Government was looking at ways to help rural areas.

She said: “Tendring suffers from peripherality - we have many towns that live on the edge and have sea on one side and some, like Harwich, have sea on three sides.

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“If the towns don’t provide what people want they have to travel. (But) we have found that the Government is very interested in the issues we have got in Tendring and have had several senior civil servants come down.”

She also said the district’s involvement in the Local Enterprise Partnership would help create solutions to problems faced by residents and businesses.

Dr Daniel Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said he had asked the Government to “take action” on supporting families who relied on their cars to get about.

He said: “In rural areas, people are reliant on their cars, and older people in particular need to be able to afford to heat their homes. It is difficult for any Government to legislate against wild variations in fuel price that may be caused by instability in Libya and the Middle East, as these events are outside of our control, but we must do all we can to support hard pressed working families, particularly those in rural areas who are reliant on their cars.”

John Dugmore, CEO of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said many members had been hit hard by the high cost of fuel in recent months.

He said: “Amongst our members we count a wide range of businesses whose profitability and future growth are closely related to fuel prices.

“Hauliers, logistics companies, transport operators and small business people have been unanimous in expressing concern over the high price of fuel in recent months.”

He said the chamber was calling on the Government to postpone the 1p rise in fuel duty planned for April 2011.

Mr Dugmore added: “The Government must also end speculation on future mechanisms to moderate fuel prices, with a clear and final decision on whether or not it will introduce a fuel duty stabiliser.”

Chancellor George Osborne gave a strong hint this week that measures to reduce the impact of rising oil prices at the petrol pump would be included in his Budget.

Duty is due to rise by another 1p per litre next month but Mr Osborne has given clear signals that drivers can expect that to be put off.

“I am looking, of course, at fuel duty, particularly this increase in duty that the last Labour government planned for April,” he said in Derby after the Cabinet meeting on Monday.

“I understand how families are hit hard by the rising cost of oil around the world, caused in part by the Libyan crisis, and I am seeing what I can to do help but I can’t make any promises today, you’ve got to wait for Budget day.”

Mr Osborne said spending cuts had been spread “pretty fairly across the country”.

“Some of the biggest cuts are in David Cameron’s own constituency (Witney in Oxfordshire) so it’s not as if we’re favouring areas over others. We’ve all got to make difficult decisions.”

The continuing rise in the cost of fuel comes at the same time as cuts to some rural bus services made by Suffolk County Council.

A council spokesman said: “Following a review of public transport routes, we are reducing the frequency or changing the type of service provided to support a core daytime network. “This includes working with bus operators and communities to find local solutions.

“Thanks to close working with our bus contractors, we have minimised the impact on people and businesses by protecting core routes at the busiest times. “We are doing this by maintaining daytime bus services for people who commute to work, education or use other services with the greatest demand.

“Also, people who live in rural areas will benefit from demand responsive transport, which is a more flexible approach to help with short local journeys and linking up with other bus and rail routes to travel across the county.”

How to make the most of your fuel

- Slow down – driving at 85mph on the motorway uses around 20% more fuel than sticking to the speed limit.

- Avoid carrying any unnecessary weight in the car as heavy loads put more strain on the vehicle, leading to higher fuel consumption.

- Running the air conditioning increases the car’s fuel consumption by as much as 10%, opening windows and sun-roofs also effects petrol consumption because they create extra drag.

- Car pooling can help reduce your mileage and therefore fuel costs – can you share a lift to work?

- A cold engine uses ore fuel than a warm engine so try multi-tasking – drop the kids at football, pop in on a friend and then do the weekly shop.

- You could cut fuel consumption by as much as 30% by accelerating gently, cruising at a steady speed and not braking too abruptly.

- Changing gear earlier to keep the rev counter within the 1500 to 2500 range will also help.

- Check oil and tyre pressure levels regularly as a well-maintained car is more efficient.

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