Fuel duty increase ‘would be wrong’ as changes could be ‘punitive’ on road users

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Fuel duty cost rises would be “punitive” on many drivers who are struggling to bear the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Simon Williams, RAC fuel expert warned the economy was “dependent on driving” with roads vital to move goods across the nation.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Williams said: “The economy is very much dependent on driving and the roads so we feel that as the economy is struggling at the moment it would be the wrong time to increase fuel duty.

“We appreciate its been held since George Osborne cut it.

“We think that’s crucial to enable people to carry on their lives and in moving products and services around the country.

“If it were to increase it would be punitive on lots of people who are particularly struggling at the moment financially and who rely on their cars.”

Rishi Sunak decided to continue the fuel duty freeze in his March budget after fears there would be a 2p a litre increase.

However, with gaps in public spending due to the coronavirus pandemic, an increase in fuel duty has been hinted as an easy form of taxation.

Costs could increase by up to 3p per litre with some MPs even calling for a massive 5p a litre rise.

Mr Williams warned that it was “very hard to say” how much costs could rise if a fuel duty increase was given the green light.

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He warned that road users may not agree with an increase to solely pay for coronavirus debt after research revealed motorists would only tolerate the money being spent on road upgrades.

Mr Williams told Express.co.uk: “The only way drivers would tolerate an increase as far as the RAC is aware is if the extra revenue from the increase was actually ringfenced for the maintenance and improvement of local roads.

“We’ve put that to drivers and they would under those circumstances tolerate a 2p per litre rise.

“But that is probably not going to be something the government are that open to considering due to the big hole that’s facing this budget due to the coronavirus.

“Fuel duty is very much considered as another form of general taxation due to there being 40million UK drivers but I’m not sure that should be the case.”

Data from HMRC has revealed that the government missed out on £2.6billion of lost fuel duty under lockdown.

The data revealed that the government received £2.3billion on petrol duties between March and May in 2019 compared to just £1.3billion this year.

Diesel profits were also down with the government losing out on £1.5billion compared to last year.

Mr Williams told Express.co.uk: “The government has lost a lot of money in revenue through lost fuel duty.

“They are considerably down as a result of people not driving in the depths of the lockdown.

“They are revenue down which they need to make up for presumably to try and balance the books.”

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