Belfast Telegraph

Fuel price hikes demand action

Northern Ireland historically has had the highest fuel prices in western Europe, so it is no surprise to see it still leading the way at the petrol pumps having soared past the £6 a gallon mark. The price of fuel is causing outrage in other parts of the UK, but they do not suffer from the same disadvantages as the province. Haulage, shipping and aircraft costs have to be factored into all the goods we import and as fuel prices rise, so those costs are passed onto us, the customers.

Also, being a largely rural community, Northern Ireland has a very high dependance on the motor car. It is an essential mode of transport for very many people and they are having to pay more and more at the pumps at a time when money is already tight. The unemployment queues continue to grow and even those in employment are facing pay freezes, or pay cuts. Faced with ever-escalating fuel costs, many household budgets are creaking under the strain.

And the bad news is that there could be more bad news. A further government tax increase in fuel is due next month. Doubtless, it is tempting for a government struggling to reduce its record deficit to attempt to bring in as much revenue as it can through all kinds of duty at its disposal, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have both said they are concerned about the impact the rising cost of living - especially fuel - is having on households.

Mr Cameron has several times floated the idea of cushioning increases in petrol prices by simultaneously reducing the Government's tax take - the so called automatic fuel stabiliser. No-one is quite sure if such a system would work or if it could be flexible enough to response quickly to changes in fuel prices. But the Government cannot stand idly by and let prices continue to rise without offering some form of mitigation to hard-pressed consumers.

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