Mr Osborne has missed a golden opportunity to invest the £2 billion from the oil companies in providing alternatives to car travel; people are now being encouraged to drive in a 1970s dream that could soon evaporate with a change in the price of oil, writes Eleanor Besley.
Mr Osborne has missed a golden opportunity to invest the £2 billion from the oil companies in providing alternatives to car travel; people are now being encouraged to drive in a 1970s dream that could soon evaporate with a change in the price of oil, writes Eleanor Besley
Today’s budget budget (pdf) was never truly expected to offer the much talked up green hue to our dynamic coalition government but the reality of events far surpassed anything even the oil-riddled transport secretary could have dreamed of and which may leave him green with jealousy at the chancellor’s latest nickname, ‘Mr Ford Focus’.
Pre-budget there had been a split in opinion among green groups; I say split – in reality it was about two different approaches:
• On the one hand, recognising the necessity of the car for so many of the British public and instead of focusing on fuel duty, emphasising improved public transport;
• And on the other hand, insisting that steps be taken towards getting the UK off the oil hook by maintaining planned fuel duty increases and ring-fencing them for investment in sustainable alternatives to car transport.
Ultimately, the budget failed to impress either camp and has if nothing else brought them back together.
Having more or less confirmed before the budget that he was unlikely to go ahead with planned fuel duty increases, Mr Osborne pulled an absolute corker out of the bag by going one step forward – or rather ten steps backwards.
Not only did he scrap the increase, he also declared a 1p cut in fuel duty which had not been included in the pre-briefing, rebuffing recent warnings from energy secretary Chris Huhne about the risk of a 1970s oil shock and ignoring the real crises of peak oil and climate change which will, without a doubt, continue to push up the price of oil… what a showman.
If Mr Huhne had been trying to give some muscle to the government’s green credentials then the Osborne/Hammond/Cameron threesome has certainly managed to burn them at the stake… doused in petrol.
There really is no winner in today’s budget (mini private jet celebrations aside). By insisting on this Clarksonesque approach, Mr Osborne provides very little (or as his shadow Mr Balls calls it, “laughable”) relief to the British motorist whilst also failing to look long-term at the problem of British dependence on an increasingly expensive commodity.
Edward Miliband did a good job, best performance so far, and will no doubt see the benefit in opinion polls, but he failed to mention the enormous holes in the carbon floor price which is too low to really drive clean, green investment and didn’t go far enough on the fuel price issue, missing a great opportunity to do more of the justified budget bashing.
Where are the long-term plans George? What will you do when the price spikes can no longer be managed with short-term solutions? The British public is moving further towards transport poverty and government must start thinking about a strategy to get us off the oil hook before we go cold turkey.
The domestic transport round up provides the following headlines:
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• The planned rise in fuel duty has been delayed until 2012. Fuel duty has also been cut by 1p per litre, which will take effect at 6pm this evening and the fuel duty escalator, planned to add 1p per year in future years on the price of fuel, has also been cancelled.
This leaves a £6bn hole in public finances meaning that other taxes have to go up or further spending cuts need to be made.
• Introduction of a Fair Fuel Stabiliser that will seek to balance taxes on oil and gas production with rises or cuts in fuel duty.
• Inflation only increase of vehicle excise duty – and rates will be frozen for Heavy Good Vehicles.
This means that the financial incentives, although small, to purchase fuel efficient car has now gone.
• An increase in the Approved Mileage Allowance Payments for those travelling for work. It will now increase from 40 pence to 45 pence per mile. This allowance has also been extended to cover volunteers travelling as passengers.
This further incentivises people to travel to work by car and use a car in the course of their work.
• Investment of £100 million for repairing potholes in England.
• A Green Investment Bank will be set up to support low-carbon investment. The bank that will be able to borrow money and raise capital rather than just be a finite fund. In addition to the £1bn already committed to its capitalisation, an extra £2bn would be raised through public asset sales. The bank will start operating in 2012-2013.
This could be interesting… although important to remember that the bank lends money, rather than gives it.