THE SUPERMARKET price war driving down UK petrol prices is bypassing huge parts of Yorkshire as rural motorists lose out.
Across the UK petrol prices are dropping as Sainsbury’s and Asda lead the way in a forecourt clash that has seen average UK petrol prices fall 2 pence a litre to 127.2p on average and diesel down to 131.3p.
But in Yorkshire the drop has been far less, around 1.6p on average, and the problem is worse for small rural town which in many cases are £2-a-tank worse off.
Research by the AA showed that although greater supermarket competition has spread the benefit of cut-price fuel to cities and larger towns, smaller rural communities continue to miss out.
In some parts of Yorkshire the rarity of petrol stations has seen prices remain stubbornly high. Motorists in Richmond, for example, are in some cases paying as much as 131.9p a litre.
In rural Malton and other villages near North Yorkshire’s Howardian Hills the lowest motorists can expect to pay is 128.9p, considerable higher than the falling UK average, according to figures made available by the petrolprices.com website.
The AA’s president, Edmund King, said last night the supermarkets were obviously holding back cheaper deals where there was little market incentive.
He said: “This big drop in the cost of petrol feels like it should be cause for celebration – the budgets of hard-pressed workers whose wages have failed to keep pace with inflation will ease to some extent. However, pump prices in the country and small rural towns remain stubbornly high.
“These are the places that, only 18 months ago with petrol at 140p a litre, many lower-income workers faced the choice of cutting back on food and essentials or being able to afford to drive to work. That is why missing out on the benefit of falling pump prices makes them so angry.”
Environment select committee chairwoman Anne McIntosh last night said she was still waiting to hear if the EU would agree to allow the UK to offer a rural fuel discount in some areas, a proposal the Treasury has yet to win approval for.
She said: “The cost of delivering public services in rural areas much higher than urban areas, the distance alone between many places is a big factor in this, and so it is clear that by not passing on a fall in petrol prices these firms are hitting the most vulnerable hardest.”
Since mid last week, the wholesale cost of petrol has fallen half a penny a day, amounting to a 4p-a-litre drop. If that is sustained long enough to get through to the pump, not only will it lop £2 off the cost of a typical tank of petrol but potentially switch £2 million a day from the fuel pump to other consumer spending.
The AA said questions remain over whether those savings would be passed on, a concern repeated by the Country Land and Business Association in the North.
Regional director Dorothy Fairburn said: “Heading in to winter, farmers and small rural business owners are being increasingly squeezed by the difference between low market prices for crops, livestock and milk and the high costs of essentials such as fuel.”