The rise in fuel prices is hitting the pocket of the entire nation, but the government shouldn't be passing the buck.
By Peter Carroll
Fuel is the oxygen of the economy. That is not a statement to provoke the green lobby into fits of protestation. It's just a statement of the truth.
If the flow of fuel is reduced or if it is made so expensive that people cannot use it, the economy starts to grind to a halt. More than that, expensive fuel destroys businesses and hurts people.
How do I know this? Because a massive part of the FairFuelUK campaign has revolved around asking people.
When I say 'people', I don't mean 'experts' giving their learned opinion, I mean people who run businesses or who need fuel to live their lives. Since its inception in January 2010, over 2,000 business people and individual car users have posted their own personal experiences on the site. These range from road hauliers who have had to lay off staff, through to health care professionals who have to dip into their own pockets to pay for the fuel to see their clients in remote areas.
In a recent poll, commissioned by FairFuelUK and carried out by ComRes, we asked people which out of a range of current political issues had the biggest impact on their lives. The price of filling up the family car scored 59. The next highest issue, the reforms to the NHS, scored six. Pretty much every other issue struggled to score more than three. Strange then, that after a massive amount of publicity in the run up to the March Budget whipped up in large part by FairFuelUK campaigning, the fuel price issue largely disappeared from the political agenda. There was risk of it falling away in the face of Libya, the economy, Greece, the NHS, pensions, the litany goes on.
For me, this highlights two major issues. Firstly, that the cost of fuel is a subject the politicians ignore at their peril. Secondly, that campaigns such as FairFuelUK are vital. Without them, major issues, the ones which affect normal people in their everyday lives, can just slip off the agenda of the Westminster village.
Given the high pump prices, it is easy to forget that even with all the upward pressures on the cost of oil, fuel in the UK is actually cheap. It costs about 40p per litre. The high pump price is almost entirely due to fuel duty and VAT. This tax element is now so high, that for many people it is the largest tax they pay! One could almost imagine that petrol retailers may soon be classified as offices of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, such is the enormity of the tax they are collecting every day.
Of course, there are concerns that the oil companies may be guilty of not passing on price reductions. The government and the public are right to be angry about this. However, the person who takes the lion's share is not some 'greedy' oil company. It's the Treasury, by a country mile. That's why the central focus of FairFuelUK will remain on the government.
Peter Carroll was the man behind Joanna Lumley's successful Gurhka campaign of 2009. Peter's company is running the FairFuelUK campaign.
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