Lib Dems call for fuel duty to be cut in more rural areas

Liberal Democrats have urged the Government to reduce fuel duty in rural areas, after analysis found that households in more remote areas paid £114 in transport costs each week in the year to March 2020, almost £40 more than those in urban areas.

The Lib Dems want an expansion of the rural fuel duty relief scheme, which is currently offered in a handful of remote areas of the UK, including Scotland islands and other areas, Scilly, and Hawes.

The proposal is to extend the relief to places where “public transport options are limited and drivers are being disproportionately hit by rising fuel prices”. This would include Devon, Cornwall, Cumbria, Shropshire and rural parts of Wales. The Lib Dems also want the relief to be doubled to 10p a litre.

Reported by the Telegraph and the i, rural affairs spokesman Tim Farron said:

The Government must act now to help rural families on the brink, by expanding the fuel duty relief scheme.

Ministers need to also crack down on the petrol profiteers who are cashing in on people’s misery at the pump.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has ordered an “urgent” investigation into petrol station operators by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The Lib Dems are also calling for an emergency cut to VAT, from 20 per cent to 17.5 per cent across the board. Together with the fuel duty relief, the measures would save rural drivers £7.60 each time they fill up their tank.

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  • Peter Davies 13th Jun '22 - 12:25pm

    Ultimately, it’s the ability of wealthy drivers to live in the country and do everything else in the town that has left much of rural Britain devoid of local facilities. If you want to help rural communities, subsidise rural busses, sub-post offices or almost anything but fuel.

  • Funny how both the LibDems and Conservatives think the way forward is through tax cuts; yet reality indicates the way forward is through appropriate investment…

    For example, now is the time for putting extra effort into the universal delivery of fibre optic communications and supporting employees working from home. whilst not everyone can work from home, I suspect many of those that Peter alludes to can work from home; and as lockdown demonstrated, these people working from home switched to putting money (and time) into their local economy rather than some remote town.

    Another is the getting rid of the daftness of bus service privatisation – it does take a particularly deep dive into public transport to understand the reasons why services under TFL largely work, and those elsewhere subject to the full force of the Tories privatisation obsession don’t.

  • Andy Boddington 13th Jun '22 - 4:34pm

    That is too blunt @Peter Davies. How do you get to work at current fuel prices? How do care workers on 20p a mile get to the people they support? Some people in the countryside are wealthy but many struggle to make ends meet, especially if they are off grid.

  • George Thomas 13th Jun '22 - 4:40pm

    There’s an image often shared around social media which shows that driving a car is still less expensive then regular use of public transport. Car drivers have had the biggest shock to their budgets recently – which has grabbed the headlines – and campaigning for rural folk often forgotten is good, but don’t forget how expensive public transport is!

  • Peter Davies 13th Jun '22 - 4:50pm

    Expenses payments should reflect actual expenses. A lot of employers will be needing to review mileage allowances, not just rural ones.

    Of course not all rural dwellers are rich but rural people without cars are overwhelmingly poor and they are the ones suffering from the absence of facilities due to car dependency and the lack of affordable housing due to urban workers displacing them.

  • A temporary cut in fuel duty would help people now. Talking about how buses should be nationalised won’t.

    Stagecoach is, from Monday, scrapping the 93A which serves a string of villages that run for about 20 miles along the Solway coast. Other villages have the ‘luxury’ of one bus a day each way. Some lost theirs years ago.
    People who live there don’t just need transport to get to work: they need it to get to the nearest surgery, the nearest hospital, the nearest shops (or should everyone ‘simply’ do all their shopping online as well?). People with jobs at holiday sites need to get there… And with few to no buses, that means a car.

  • Barry Lofty 13th Jun '22 - 5:22pm

    Their is no doubt in my mind that a fuel duty cut in the present crisis makes a great deal of sense, we have to deal with the situation that is effecting peoples lives right at this moment?

  • Tristan Ward 13th Jun '22 - 7:04pm

    Cheaper fuel helps people but is sticking plaster. From a climate crisis point of view cheaper hydrocarbons is a bad thing. We need the investment in renewable (including tidal and (possibly) nuclear) to secure supply and investment in (eggs public transport, rural Internet access, insulation of homes) to reduce demand.

    What do we get from the Tories? Net Zero is a “waste of time” and promises of tax cuts at a time when the nation deficit balloons.

  • Brad Barrows 13th Jun '22 - 7:09pm

    There is no justification to keeping VAT on petrol and diesel at 20% – especially when the tax actually a tax on a tax as VAT is applied to the fuel duty. So let us campaigning on cutting VAT on petrol and diesel to 5%?

  • Where I live it costs £4 to go to and from the nearest town centre by bus (about a mile but up a steep hill). That’s £16 for a family of four. I’d worry about them rather than those electing to live in the peace of the countryside.

  • Actually JohnMc, the rural poor don’t simply elect to live in the countryside. Often, they can’t afford to leave. Even more fundamentally, many rural areas outside the home counties don’t have buses at all. I don’t know if you are a townie, but you seem to be making a big judgement call made on very little knowledge.

  • Cutting taxes during a period with a large government deficit, high inflation and a falling £ is not helpful. The extra demand released will just drive the £ down and prices up. Far better to increase fuel duty, hitting everyone but also reducing the demand for oil, and then apply the extra tax revenue to increasing benefits thereby getting the help where it is most needed. The rural poor would benefit and the rural rich would pay more.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Jun '22 - 7:08am

    “Even more fundamentally, many rural areas outside the home counties don’t have buses at all.”

    Same in home counties

  • Peter Davies 14th Jun '22 - 8:25am

    One of the joys of UBI is that a strategy such as Richard’s can be enacted simply and transparently. If you raise a tax like fuel duty for the incentives it gives, you can put the money into raising UBI and it will almost always ensure that the poor are no worse off.

  • David Evans 14th Jun '22 - 9:09am

    Richard, exactly what calculations have you done to show that the rural poor who often have no other means of transport than an old banger or expensive taxis, will benefit? All I see is yet another shift of resources to urban areas where benefits will rise and who will still keep cheap, subsidised public transport.

    The help is most needed by the rural poor, not those in urban areas who have much easier access to supermarkets and have public transport.

  • David Evans 14th Jun '22 - 9:22am

    Nonconformist. When you say ‘Same in home counties”, I don’t think you have looked at the maps.

    Suggest you compare

    Surrey –

    Cumbria –

    N.B. Surrey 642 Sq miles; Cumbria 2,613 sq m.

  • It seems some have forgotten that fuel in very rural areas is much more expensive than it is in more central areas. A location based reduction in fuel duty isn’t just to reflect the additional reliance on private transport in rural areas, or that people have to drive further to get to the shops, it’s that the cost of driving is higher per mile travelled. It’s true that sometimes house/rent prices reflect these issues, but with fuel prices and revenue raised from it rocketing, then a bit of balancing is fair.

    The challenge would be deciding which areas count as rural. It seems fair for very rural areas, but there’s a danger of politically motivated creep to nice bits of the countryside.

    It is a sticking plaster policy, but sometimes a sticking plaster is required.

    What is also required is better investment in public transport for rural communities.

    When there’s a debate about UBI, some people invariably suggest we’d be better off doing something like making buses free. That’s great for those in a position to use public transport, but the imbalance in availability of public transport makes that unfair (if implemented in isolation). Investment in bus availability is key.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Jun '22 - 10:32am

    @David Evans
    There are other places in the home counties besides Surrey. Places without bus services and without shops etc.

    I do appreciate how bad services could be in Cumbria believe it or not.

  • @David Evans

    Population of Surrey 1.2 million. Population of Cumbria, not even 0.5 million. We are talking about a population density more than 10 times greater. The lower the population density the harder it is to sustain viable public transport. This isn’t about ideology or neglect or whatever north-south divideists say. It’s just down to practicalities.

    And whilst there is rural poverty, the fact remains that the average rural dweller is wealthier than the average town or city dweller. That’s why public transport is even more difficult to sustain; a significant proportion of rural dwellers are sufficiently wealthy to have no desire to use it. Go to equally population sparse rural areas as Cumbria in poor countries and you find excellent (privately provided) public transport. The demand and need is there, which just isn’t in relatively wealthy rural UK

  • A more general comment. Rather like the recent objection to increasing the domestic production and supply of gas without a bigger picture awareness of the demand for gas (and the whole cost of living and energy crisis this is feeding), this policy of reducing prices for petrol is similarly lacking bigger picture awareness. Prices are high because of pinched demand. Reducing prices will only fuel demand (even though petrol price elasticity is less than other commodities) and increase prices. So again, policies that do little to address the issue.

    And that is before the issue of reducing petrol prices being a direct contradiction of environmental concerns and policies

  • Nonconformist, Indeed there are other places in the home counties besides Surrey. But had you looked at any of the bus links in the other home counties when in response to my comment ‘Even more fundamentally, many rural areas outside the home counties don’t have buses at all.” and you replied “Same in home counties.”?

    Being blunt it’s nothing like the same in the home counties compared to Cumbria or North Yorkshire or Northumberland, and saying that it is borders on unwillingness to let facts get in the way of a quick one liner.

    Tell me are you aware of any parts of the home counties where it is more than 9 miles in any direction to the nearest bus route? Oh yes and then it’s only a one day a week service?

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Jun '22 - 11:49am

    @David Evans
    What’s the distance to the bus route got to do with the problem? Wherever one is in the country – if the would-be user of public transport cannot walk easily and safely to the nearest public transport then said public transport is pretty useless.

  • Sadly Nonconformist as I keep pointing out facts, you just keep changing your point. I will simply point out that your original one line put down “Same in the home counties” was in response to my comment “many rural areas outside the home counties don’t have buses at all.”

    Now you say “What’s the distance to the bus route got to do with the problem?” and then go off on another tangent. It really is so disappointing.

  • Surely the timing of the services and the population they serve are factors too.

    To use the village where I was brought up in Hampshire (population 400, no shop for 30 years) as an example, you can get to the nearest town by bus (three miles away) on either a Tuesday or a Friday but you have to go at 9.45am and come back at 12.15pm. The Tory council can therefore say there is a bus service but it is utterly useless!

  • nvelope2003 14th Jun '22 - 2:36pm

    Ruth Bright: What bus times would be useful ? When the College is closed for holidays the early bus often passes my house empty. The bus at 9.45 am, returning at 12.45, was the best used before the pandemic which has caused a reduction, but is rarely empty. Loadings on the other buses vary considerably throughout the day but I find the service useful. I understand the route is operated without subsidy by one of those wicked, greedy private bus companies.

  • Ruth Bright 14th Jun '22 - 6:20pm

    That’s great if you use that service. I am not saying it is WRONG to offer off peak buses. Just that a bus service that is only off peak is useless for people going to work school or college. When I was young (which I admit is a very long time ago) the early bus was full because the wheels on the bus went round round at peak time every day when most people needed it

  • nvelope2003 15th Jun '22 - 9:19pm

    Ruth Bright: When I went to school both the early buses were full and standing double decks Now the villages are full of cars and the one single deck bus carries a handful of passengers. It is too slow as it needs to divert off the main road to serve other villages. Councils seem reluctant to support an express service and the company would probably get more money by operating a school contract. Colleges also subsidise contract buses to compete with other Colleges but students who don’t go every day use the ordinary service. None of this really helps but I guess people who cannot get a train to work because of strikes might want to get a car and who can blame them.

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