Despite pressure from motoring organisations, business groups, the general public and his own party, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has taken the puzzling step of criticising George Osborne’s decision to postpone August’s 3p rise in fuel duty.
Osborne has shelved plans to impose a 3p levy, opting to postpone it until January 2014 – a move thought to cost the Government around £550m. The deferral will, according to Osborne, be offset by last year’s £4bn Government underspend and while, seemingly, an intimidating figure, £550m makes up just 0.07% of the Government’s average yearly £700bn budget.
Despite Osborne’s listening to public opinion and Balls leading the political clamour for a postponement (including a claim that the Labour Party would call a commons vote to stop the rise) the Shadow Chancellor is still attempting to occupy the moral high ground.
Balls has described Osborne’s actions as the ‘fastest U-turn in history’. He added:
“Labour called for this help for families and businesses this morning and I welcome the fact the chancellor backed down. With U-turns on petrol, pasties, caravans, charities and churches, George Osborne’s budget is now in tatters – a truly omni-shambles of a budget from a part-time chancellor whose reputation is now badly damaged.”
Adding fuel to the fire?
In what amounts to a political sideshow, it is not fuel duty postponement but Osborne’s absence from last night’s Newsnight that seems to be causing political consternation this morning.
Osborne sent Economic Secretary to The Treasury Chloe Smith to face Jeremy Paxman, a platform on which she failed to impress the social media community. Tweeters claimed Osborne had sent a sacrificial lamb to the BBC2 programme while former Deputy PM, John Prescott, tweeted:
“When we faced hard times every Cabinet minister would go on TV to defend policy. Osborne sent a very junior minister. Coward.”
Smith was unable to identify where the fuel saving would come from, prompting Paxman to ask:
“Is this some sort of joke? How can you possibly have as a number one priority cutting the deficit when you choose to spend an underspend in funding a tax cut, or failure to implement a tax rise which was scheduled?”
Paxman’s final, withering salvo was: “Do you ever think you are incompetent?” Smith replied:
“I think it is valuable to help real people in this way and I do think that is valued by people who drive.”
In a moment on restorative sanity, Edmund King, the president of the AA, concluded:
“This is great news for all motorists as drivers will breathe an enormous sigh of relief with summer holidays about to take off. A duty increase at the same time as the Olympics would have cast a shadow over the UK. What we now need more than ever is fuel price transparency to make absolutely sure these benefits are passed on to drivers in their entirety.”
At VCARS.co.uk we are always looking at how day-to-day the cost of motoring affects drivers online habbits.
“Obviously any kind of savings for drivers can only be a good thing. Even if it is just a freeze, the general public expect fuel prices to keep rising over time. The average motorist has seen increasing rises on all driving tax over the past few years from fuel to congestion charging & road tax. At VCARS we have seen a steady rise in searches for more economical cars across the board. Motorists are trying to keep costs down and what would really help is transparency on what charges they can expect to pay over the coming years.” Darren Preston, Owner VCARS.co.uk