Grinding to a halt

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THE Government has given the impression that it understands the exorbitant costs of fuel in rural areas – it has received EU backing for a trial scheme in the Hebrides that will enable petrol and diesel to be sold at a discounted price.

A key plank of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement just over three months ago, it will take years before the pilot project’s effectiveness in Scotland is assessed and decision taken on the scheme’s merit in areas like North Yorkshire.

Yet time is not on the side of motorists in Ryedale. Diesel prices here now rank among the most expensive in the country, according to the Countryside Alliance, and offers further proof that the Chancellor could choke off Britain’s recovery prospects and send them into reverse if he does not act in the Budget.

While the turmoil in the Middle East is a contributory factor, this uncertainty does not impact upon the level of duty charged by the Treasury at the pumps. The very least that Mr Osborne can do is scrap the 3p increase planned for August. But, if he’s serious about kickstarting growth, he will give a clear commitment to lowering duty as part of a wider tax reduction strategy.

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