Danny Alexander announces plans to extend rural fuel derogation

petrol pumpIn 2010, Danny Alexander made sure that there was a commitment to fair rural fuel duty in the Coalition Agreement. Last year he was able to deliver on that, securing a 5p reduction in duty for remote island areas.

Now he wants to see if that can be extended. As a first step towards that, petrol retailers are being asked to supply details of the prices they charge .The Government will then use that information as the basis s of a further application to reduce the duty in those areas.

If you live in a remote part of Cornwall or the Scottish Highlands or in deepest Argyll, for example, a car is necessity, not a luxury. Public transport options are infrequent and severely limited if it exists at all. Frequently, people who live in these areas pay well over the odds for petrol. And because they will have to use more petrol than someone who lives in a town, it hits them harder.  That shouldn’t be the case.

As a highlander, Danny understands these realities:

The island fuel rebate provides much needed help to keep down fuel prices in areas where costs of transporting fuel mean prices are much higher. I know that there are other remote rural areas of the UK with similarly high fuel costs.

So we are today starting to gather further evidence that will form part of an application to the Commission to extend the island fuel duty discount scheme to very remote rural areas.

We will need to prove that there are areas which are similar to the islands in terms of pump prices and distribution costs, so I would urge local areas that may qualify to provide the information we need to make the case as robust as possible.

Danny is under no illusion that persuading the EU to grant a further derogation will be easy, but he’s determined to make the effort. This is the sort of thing that we should be negotiating with Europe, not the Tories’ posturing on human rights. It’s good that he’s laying the foundations for presenting a strong case for a reduction in duty that would make a real difference to people living in rural areas.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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6 Comments

  • jenny barnes 1st Aug '13 - 3:18pm

    How did people manage to live in these remote places before there were cars? And what sort of cars are they driving? 20 mpg 4X4s or 60+ mpg superminis? You might as well have a subsidy on people driving 4X4s as no doubt they would claim that these are a necessity in rural wherever. After all, the snowploughs and gritters stick to the main roads. People make choices about where they live; some of those choices end up with high tax rates. Or, how about using electric cars in these rural places? Why should poor people who live in cities subsidise people living in the country? This strikes me as another policy from the ministry of silly ideas. Why doesn’t DA do something useful, like arrange for some social housing to get built?

  • John Thornton 1st Aug '13 - 3:58pm

    (Proviso: I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of extending the fuel subsidy)
    @ jenny barnes: In answer to some of your questions:

    “How about using electric cars in these rural places?” Well, the lack of any infrastructure for electric cars outside the South-East for a start.

    “People make choices about where they live” Yes, because farmers can just live in the cities. Or foresters. Or anyone who runs a tourist operation near one of our rural National Parks. Or anyone who can’t afford to move away, because rural pay is generally lower and urban rents are generally higher.

    “Why should poor people who live in cities subsidise people living in the country?” Why should people living in the country have to pay more for the same services as people living in the city? Or, especially in this case, paying more for the same petrol? When the options for public transport are minimal to non-existant, you can’t just walk to the shops – you can easily be talking a half-hour drive just to get a pint of milk.

    “Why doesn’t DA do something useful, like arrange for some social housing to get built?” What, in the countryside? Where people who would need social housing wouldn’t have the spare cash to run a car, which is a necessity for, for example, looking for work or actually doing a job if you get one.

    As I say, I don’t necessarily support the idea of a fuel subsidy. But please, can people perhaps realise that the countryside isn’t full of posh Tory aristocrats, with Chelsea tractors and sportscars and Bentleys, but that there are people out here, without a choice, who *have to* run a car just to get to a supermarket.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 1st Aug '13 - 9:26pm

    Jenny, I wonder if you’ve ever spent any length of time in, say, the middle of Sutherland? They need to have bigger cars because when you go and do a shopping, it’s to fill your freezer because the nearest major supermarket is a couple of hours away.

    Electric cars are simply not practical for that sort of terrain and the distances they would be required to travel.

  • @Jenny Barnes
    “Why should poor people who live in cities subsidise people living in the country? ”

    The traditional reason for such subsidies is that the recipients vote Tory. It’s a kind of welfare/reward system. Farmer=subsidy, Miner=must stand of their own two feet, etc. This is no different. So, why is Alexander joining in with a bribe-a-Tory scheme? Stockholm syndrome?

    @John Thornton
    ” because rural pay is generally lower and urban rents are generally higher.”

    Urban rents are actually lower than the countryside because of all the subsidies and cheap oil over the last few decades, which has enabled the wealthy to flee the cities and bid-up rural residential land prices to the detriment of those on low wages that live in the countryside. A good answer to this would be to build more council housing in the villages – most villages already have a council estate that was built in more enlightened times anyway. You complain at the cost of living for people on low wages in the countryside but don’t want to allow them to access cheaper housing. I find that somewhat contradictory.

  • Mark Wallis 2nd Aug '13 - 10:01am

    For the average person living in remote parts of the UK it’s a grind to exist when you have to travel 20 to 40 miles each way to work by car as there is poor public transport provision. You watch your hard earned cash dwindle daily as the petrol station priceometer ratchets up!

    Lib Dem MP Andrew George who has the Isles of Scilly in his constituency, which is one of the Islands in the fuel rebate pilot, is pressing for this. He gives some cogent reasons why we should go ahead here: http://www.andrewgeorge.org.uk/rural-fuel-campaign-progress/

  • Stuart Mitchell 4th Aug '13 - 11:03am

    Just spent a week in the beautiful Welsh countryside and found that I was getting nearly twice as many miles to the gallon as I do back home in the city. Looking at it that way, petrol bought in the countryside is actually a really good deal – perhaps it’s urbanites who should be getting a rebate?

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