Rural life hit hardest by fuel prices

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RURAL workers are being hit with massive fuel rises and commuting costs 25 per cent higher than those in cities, research has revealed.

The average monthly fuel cost in a rural local authority area is £67 a month – and in some areas such as Selby more than £80 a month – whereas the average in urban areas is £50.

The report, from the Countryside Alliance, also reveals that costs have rocketed by more than £5 a month since the start of the year. It calls on Chancellor George Osborne to take action on fuel duty in his pre-budget report on Tuesday.

Jenny Dunn, policy researcher for the Countryside Alliance, said: “The unprecedented rise in fuel costs since the beginning of the year has placed a heavy burden on people who need their car to get to work.

“This burden weighs far heavier on rural people, for whom cars are a necessity due to the long commutes and lack of public transport options.

“The Countryside Alliance is urging the Chancellor to take action on the cost of fuel as a matter of urgency by cutting fuel duty. The future viability of rural businesses and communities are under severe threat from the spiralling costs of driving.”

The top 10 local authorities areas for the cheapest monthly fuel costs are all classed as urban, with residents in London and Aberdeen paying on average less than £30 a month.

By contrast, nine out of the 10 local authority areas that have the most expensive monthly fuel costs are classed as rural, with residents in the Western Isles, Ceredigion and Maldon paying the most in fuel costs based on the average distance to work.

In Yorkshire many rural areas also feature costs considerably higher than the national averages, with Selby the highest. Of the region’s authority areas classified as rural, Hambleton, Richmond, East Riding, Craven, Ryedale and Harrogate all featured costs higher than the national average of £67 a month, with only Scarborough, North Lincolnshire and Wakefield cheaper.

Last week the AA revealed that drivers in the UK face the third highest diesel prices in Europe – with nearly 60 per cent going to the Treasury, while in Yorkshire, the average price of a litre of petrol has risen in the last year from £1.17 to £1.33, while diesel has risen from £1.20 to £1.38.

Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, is pushing a campaign for lower fuel prices.

She wants the proposed 1p inflation increase on duty, postponed in April and due to come into force in January, to be held back. Ms McIntosh is also calling for a rural rebate of 5p a litre – currently proposed for the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Northern Isles, the islands in the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly – to be extended to North Yorkshire.

“The scheme could be extended to parts of North Yorkshire – you only have to look at pump prices and the distances people have to travel to work,” she said. “It would be set in very clearly defined geographic areas and it is not permanent, but a short term relief during very tough times for private households and businesses.”

Ms McIntosh said the knock-on effects of rising fuel prices go beyond private homes, with local councils and other public services also taking a significant hit.

“It has a big impact on the cost of delivery of public services at local authorities, for the police and using their vehicles, the ambulance service, right across the board,” she said. “And at the moment it is not recognised in the funding formula. It can be recognised – previous Conservative administrations have taken into account the sparsity of population and various other rurality factors.”