Northumberland joins Scotland in plea for petrol duty cut

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Proposals to cut the fuel bills of hard-pressed motorists in rural areas by as much as 5p a litre have been extended to include more of the UK.

The Government has asked the European Commission to consider seven extra regions across Scotland and in a part of north-east England, as well as the ten other areas it has already put forward.

North Yorkshire was included in the original list of applications after Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the Yorkshire Post’s “Give us a Fair Deal” campaign by saying he was keen to press ahead with a discount for the area.

Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said: “High fuel prices in areas where cars are a necessity, not a luxury, is a major issue in rural communities across the UK. So, following a supplementary call for information, I’m pleased to announce that seven new areas will join the ten areas already part of our new application.

“Reaching agreement with the Commission will not be easy, but we will now get on with making that case as strongly as we can.”

The new applications cover postal areas in Strathcarron, Ullapool, Lairg, Mallaig and Halkirk in the Highlands; Oban in Argyll and Bute; and Hexham in Northumberland.

The duty cut is essential, not least because of threats to rural bus routes as part of local authority cutbacks, says Douglas Chalmers, northern director of policy and public affairs at the Country Land and Business Association.

“There are areas where people are dependant on private transport because there is little public transport already and many councils are looking to cut back on rural routes. Besides, people go in different directions at different times so there are no alternatives to private transport. So, any help for people who you could almost say are disproportionately penalised as rural dwellers for getting on with their lives is welcome.”

A final decision is expected from the European Commission later this year. If approved, it could benefit about 125,000 people, the Treasury says.