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The impact of soaring petrol and diesel prices on the cost of living crisis is laid bare in the study which has fuelled demands for a VAT cut. It claims people in rural communities use their cars much more than people in urban areas and also have to pay more at the local pump. The research found that in rural areas unleaded petrol costs on average 5.75p more per litre, and diesel is 2.5p more expensive.
Urban households are expected to use 16 tanks of petrol a year at a cost of £1650.88. But rural households are expected to go through 23 tanks of petrol at a cost of £2441.45.
This means that rural households are paying 47 percent more than their urban neighbours to run their cars.
Sarah Lee, the Countryside Alliance’s director of policy and campaigns, said: “The cost of fuel weighs far heavier on rural people. [The] car is fast becoming an unaffordable necessity and it is time for the Government to act… We have continually called for support of the hard-pressed rural motorist and this research is a clear message to the Chancellor that he must act now and address the huge discrepancies between rural and urban fuel prices.”
A key demand is a new fuel rebate scheme for remote rural areas and a cut to VAT.
Richard Foord, who made history last week when he won the Tiverton and Honiton by-election for the Liberal Democrats, said voters raised the cost of fuel during the campaign. His party is pushing for the Rural Fuel Duty Relief Scheme, which today offers a 5p per litre reduction to retailers in just a handful of remote parts of the UK, to be doubled and extended .
He said: “On the doorsteps in Devon, I heard stories of families living in rural communities who have to suffer more than most because of soaring prices at the pumps. I have heard those concerns and I can guarantee that one of my first actions in Parliament will be to campaign for a fair deal for people struggling with fuel prices.
“It’s simply not good enough that this Conservative Government is failing them with their inaction on the cost of living emergency. They are taking rural communities for granted and are too focused on keeping the Prime Minister in his job.”
People in rural areas often face the challenge of depending on a car for transport while surviving on low wages.
In 2020, workers in urban parts of England (outside London) earned a median average of £25,400 while those in rural areas were paid £22,900. Urban households in 2019 travelled on average 9,282 miles but their rural counterparts racked up 13,459 miles.
The charity Acre (Action With Communities in Rural England) is concerned that people living and working in the countryside are “particularly vulnerable” to increases in transport fuel costs.
Richard Quallington, executive director, described the tough reality for many people of life in rural Britain.
He said: “Many people think of the countryside as an idyllic place to live, characterised by beautiful landscapes where people live happier, healthier lives. However, living in rural areas has its challenges.
“Rural communities often lack basic services, homes that people can afford and employment opportunities – problems made worse by poor connectivity to other areas. This can make life difficult, especially for people who already suffer other forms of disadvantage.”
Ian Taylor, the chairman of the Alliance of British Drivers, argued that using public transport was not an option for many people in the countryside.
He said: “It’s no good giving someone an old person’s free bus pass if they’ve got no bus service.”
Mr Taylor claimed the Government was “rolling” in money coming in as a result of extra cash raised through fuel taxes and VAT.
Pressing for a cut to duties, he said: “They have made so much money over the last few months that should surely give them some room to do that.”
He acknowledged that a cut to VAT on transport fuel could controversial but said: “People can moan as much as they like it’s not an environmentally friendly thing to do but at the moment we’ve got to keep life moving.”
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, also wants to see action.
He said: “The people hardest hit by skyrocketing fuel prices are those who don’t have the luxury of working from home or hopping on to a fast and frequent bus service. If the Chancellor wants to ease their financial pain, he could give back some of the windfall profits he is making from fuel taxes – suspending VAT on petrol and diesel would, at a stroke, cut the cost of a litre of fuel by more than 30p.
“Even that would only take us back to where we were three months ago, but the amount would be enough for us to quickly see whether the benefit was being passed on by the retailers.”
The Government points to the 5p cut in fuel duty as evidence of its commitment to helping motorists.
A spokesman said: “The 5p fuel duty cut is the biggest ever cut to fuel duty rates and will save the average car driver around £100. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is conducting an urgent review of the fuel market to ensure drivers are getting a fair deal.
“We understand that people are worried about rising prices which is why we have acted to protect the eight million most vulnerable British families through at least £1,200 of direct payments this year with additional support for pensioners and those claiming disability benefits.”
The Treasury expects that the cut in fuel duty – which it says is worth £5billion when taken together with the fuel duty freeze – will save an average UK car driver around £100, a van driver around £200 and a haulier more than £1,500
The CMA is expected to deliver its first report, which will investigate whether the fuel duty cut is being properly passed on to consumers and look into local variations in the price of fuel, by July 7.
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