It’s the Conservative Conference again and at least two extraordinary things happened as the party political event climaxed with the Prime Minister’s speech.
Firstly, the PM “boogied” on to the stage to the unmistakable Swedish melodies of Abba – not something you see every day, every conference, or even every decade.
And secondly she committed to freezing fuel duty increases for a ninth consecutive year – an announcement we usually have to wait on tenterhooks for during the Chancellor’s budget statement.
Extraordinary or not it is a move that’s been welcomed to varying degrees by industry organisations, campaigners and stakeholders. Though the freeze hasn’t gone far enough according to either the Road Haulage Association (RHA) or the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
Commenting, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “As a founding member and funder of campaigning group FairFuelUK, I am pleased that our close collaboration has once again paid off. However, it’s still a case of ‘good, but no cigar’, While a freeze is welcome, what we really need is a fuel duty cut.”
The RHA argues that at 57.95 pence per litre, the UK still has the highest level of fuel duty in Europe, making it impossible to level the playing field with European operators. The RHA is calling for an essential users’ rebate for lorries and other essential vehicles such as ambulances, to bring UK fuel duty into line with Germany: the EU’s most successful economy where fuel duty is 15 pence per litre cheaper.
The FTA meanwhile had a similar message. Christopher Snelling, Head of UK Policy said: “UK logistics operators already pay one of the highest rates of fuel duty in Europe, so we’re pleased the government has decided to continue the freeze for another year. With fuel prices continuing to skyrocket – the price of diesel has increased by 13% in the last year alone – logistics businesses are already tackling very challenging circumstances and a fuel duty rise would have constituted an unbearable burden. Many of our members operate large fleets of vehicles; an increase would have unfairly penalised the very industry which keeps Britain’s factories, retail outlets, schools, hospitals and homes stocked with the raw materials and goods they need to continue operating efficiently.”
The FTA believes the government has missed an opportunity to further boost economic activity by cutting fuel duty. “A 10p per litre cut would increase economic activity of nearly 1% in just one year, creating over a quarter of a million jobs. And even just a 3p per litre cut in fuel duty would still generate increased economic activity that would generate tax income to almost offset the cut in fuel duty,” says Snelling. “The government would serve UK PLC better by cutting fuel duty to jump start spending and boost economic activity. We’ll continue campaigning for a reduction in rates and hope the government heeds our advice for the next budget.”
So while we couldn’t possibly comment on the PM’s dance moves, it seems there’s clear consensus that what the industry, and the UK economy, really needs is a fuel duty cut. Maybe one day!?