In news that will disappoint thousands of motorhome enthusiasts across the UK, a senior Treasury minister has poured cold water on the idea that the recent 5p cut in fuel duty handed out to island populations could be extended to rural locations on the mainland.
In what has been described as a European Union trial scheme, residents of the Isles of Scilly in England, and the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney in Scotland, have all been granted a 5p cut in fuel duty because they experience higher prices than anywhere else in the UK, simply because of the logistics in getting the fuel to them. It had been hoped that rural locations such as Devon and Cornwall would have the scheme rolled out to them too, and MPs in the region have tried to put a case forward in Westminster.
They were certainly encouraged by comments from Business Secretary Vince Cable when he told the Western Morning News: “The islands pilot could be rolled out in remote mainland areas if the scheme worked. Obvious cases are Scotland and its Highlands, as well as parts of Wales, Cumbria and Cornwall.” However, Mr Cable’s comments were voiced when the pilot scheme was first announced and now Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury is distancing himself from his colleague’s remarks. When asked the same question earlier this month he said: “The process for winning approval for this (island scheme) was not straightforward. It was a complicated process based very much on islands. I don’t want to set out now that there might be high hopes for people on the mainland in Cornwall. This is very much focused on the Scilly Isles. I’m pleased we’re benefiting them. People in Cornwall on the mainland benefit very much from many more of the Coalition Government’s policies.”
There is no doubt that motorists in the south west could do with help. It is a region that has the lowest average wage level in England yet one of the highest average house prices. The distances between major population centres are vast compared to the rest of the UK and fuel prices one of the highest.
A campervan driver in Cornwall will easily pay over £100 now to fill up his tank. Graham Downing is secretary of a campervan club in North Cornwall and was disappointed but not surprised at the news, he said “It would be wonderful if we did get a cut in fuel duty down here. I know many people look upon a campervan as a holiday vehicle but that is untrue, many of our members use the van to travel to work, take the kids to school and do the weekly shopping. We can save a bit on motorhome insurance via the club membership but fuel costs are high down here. You can easily cover 50 miles going to the supermarket and back.”