Empty gifts

THE wrapping paper may have long since disappeared but the Government has some more treats for Britons – or so it would have us believe.

The truth behind Eric Pickles' pledge that the "war on the motorist" has ended is rather more complex, however, because Ministers are responsible for many of the problems faced by people with cars. The rise in fuel prices, for example, owes much to the increase in duty brought in by Labour and perpetuated by the coalition, while today's rise in VAT will only make life tougher for drivers.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It is foolish then for politicians like Mr Pickles, the former Bradford council leader, to claim we are seeing the start of a new era for motorists. Local authorities too might protest that Ministers' plans are pie-in-the-sky. Councils will find it extremely hard to reduce the price of car parking, as part of Government attempts to attract more shoppers into town centres, when they have just had their settlements cut as part of nationwide austerity measures. Encouraging town halls to freeze parking prices would be a more realistic option.

Ministers are right to try to make life easier for motorists, provided the environmental benefits of public transport are not neglected, because owning a car has become an unprecendented drain on the pockets of hard-pressed Britons. The cost of using the road also places another burden on small businesses, who are already fearful of what Government cuts will do to their customer base.

Voters learnt under Labour to be suspicious of Government gifts and more spurious claims of change will only increase that attitude. Britons will be angry indeed if they unwrap a present and find there is nothing beneath the shiny surface.