Scrapping 3p rise at pumps isn't enough, say motorists
Northern Ireland motorists are breathing a sigh of relief after a planned 3p rise in fuel duty was scrapped in yesterday's Budget – but they don't believe the Government has gone far enough.
Chancellor George Osborne succumbed to public and political pressure by abolishing the levy due to be implemented in September.
It is the second time he has done so in four months, after the introduction of a 3p hike in January was binned in December's Autumn Statement.
Last month the AA Fuel Price revealed that – typically – both petrol and diesel cost more in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK.
Statistics for March show the average price of unleaded was 141.1p per litre here (compared to a UK average of 139.9ppl), while diesel was sitting at 146.7ppl (or 146.4ppl elsewhere in the UK).
The cancellation of September's fuel duty rise will save the typical driver here £25 per year, according to the Northern Ireland Office. But the good news only received a lukewarm welcome by motorists at the Shankill service station in west Belfast yesterday.
Newtonabbey company director Henry McCrory, who spends £100 each week on filling up his van with diesel, expressed mixed views.
"I'm happy to hear that they've scrapped the planned increase, but they're already making a ridiculous amount from the tax on fuel," said the 48-year-old Co Antrim salesman.
"The Government needs to do more. Everything is going up in price and nothing is going down.
"The fact that holding the price of fuel is being hailed a victory means it's a bad day for all of us."
Fifty-two-year-old Linda McGookin, a school cook from Belfast, said the cost of petrol was a huge strain on her budget every month.
"I spend £40 a week on fuel so it'll make a great difference to me if the price doesn't go up," she said.
"I think the Chancellor could've done a bit more to help, though, because he knows we need our cars to get to work."
Retired nurse Elizabeth Rooney (68), a Scottish native now living in Belfast, said she would have liked petrol prices to have been cut.
"I spend around £50 a month filling up the car so a price freeze is quite good news," she said. "It will hopefully give me some money to spend on other things."
Jennie Rice, a 22-year-old cafe assistant from Belfast, who has an eight-month-old daughter, Abbey, said it was a small help.
"It's so hard to get by these days, as £10 doesn't go very far," she said.
"I spend £40 a week on petrol, so at least I know that's not going to go up in the near future."
Father-of-three Brian Babb (49), a self-employed businessman who runs a diesel van and a car, said a price freeze would be of some help.
"My fuel spend is £120 a week so it's still going to remain expensive and I'm going to have to find the money for it," said the Belfast man.
"It's good that the 3p planned fuel duty rise was scrapped, though."
Belfast barman Robert Houston (56) said that at £20-a-week, it already costs him too much as it is to keep his petrol car on the road.
"There might not be an increase in September but I think the price of petrol is already far too high.
"In Northern Ireland we pay more than anywhere else in the UK, and the UK is the dearest price in Europe.
"In every Budget the Government puts up the price of petrol, alcohol and cigarettes."