PRESSURE is growing on Government ministers to bring down fuel prices – as petrol topped £6 a GALLON at filling stations across Wales.
Haulage bosses, small businesses, drivers and politicians told Wales on Sunday that soaring fuel costs are hitting them hard.
We found one filling station in Radyr, Cardiff, charging £1.44.9 a litre for unleaded petrol, while average prices hit £1.32 in Wales – or just over £6 a gallon.
The turmoil in key oil states in North Africa and the Middle East has pushed world oil prices even higher in recent weeks, but warnings that forecourt prices would continue to rise were dampened yesterday when prices fell in the wake of the Japanese earthquake.
A Treasury spokesman told Wales on Sunday that Chancellor George Osborne is considering ways to ease fuel costs in his budget on March 23, but would not confirm any decisions.
Simon Higgins, Welsh spokesman for the Road Haulage Association, called on the Chancellor to scrap the fuel rise that had been planned for the budget and bring in measures to lower duty if fuel prices kept rising.
He said “The price of fuel is horrendous. Businesses are having to make quotes for jobs based on what they think the price of diesel will be but, with prices sailing through the roof, they won’t quote their customer properly.
“We are looking for a mechanism fuel duty stabiliser so when the cost of fuel goes up, tax goes down and price will stay the same. That way everyone will know what they are paying and businesses will be able to do their quotes better.”
He also demanded a rebate for essential users – threatening a war between struggling motorists and hauliers over whose problems are the more intense.
He said: “As hauliers, we have not got any choice but to buy fuel. We are essential users and, if there is not a rebate, then the costs have to be put onto the consumer, which then contributes to inflation.”
Figures from website Petrolprices.com showed that average petrol prices in all Wales’ major towns and cities had hit between £1.31 or £1.33 per litre last night. Average diesel prices were hovering around £1.38 per litre.
According to the AA, the UK has the eighth highest price in Europe for unleaded petrol and the second-highest diesel price.
And analysts have warned that, if the political turmoil in North African countries like Libya and Egypt continues, forecourt prices could soar to £1.50 per litre by Easter.
Many businesses have said this would be the final nail in the coffin, while others said they will have no choice but to pass costs onto the customer.
Small businesses which rely on transport are also feeling the squeeze as they are finding their costs rising at every level of their business production.
Stephanie Eynon, who runs Betty’s florist in Cardiff, says the high petrol prices have made things difficult for the business as it costs more to deliver the flowers and to order more stock in.
She said: “It’s ridiculous. There’s only so much we can take, and we’ve had to cope with the VAT increase as well. It’s awful for us as a small business. A big part of our service is delivering the flowers to our customers. But now it doesn’t cover the wages of our driver and the fuel.”
Plaid Cymru parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd also urged the Treasury to act quickly to help businesses.
He said: “For the last five or six years we have been lobbying successive governments that they should introduce a fuel regulator process or some kind of regulation to stabilise prices. Fuel tax should be constant, it’s perfectly logical. It’s been a long time coming.
“I hope that the Treasury do not put the level increase on. They need to stop that one. Businesses are suffering and people have got less money to spend. It’s causing inflation for goods.
“This issue doesn’t just affect people in rural areas, it affects everyone. The main problem is that the petroleum industry rules the roost and it is a finite resource.”
The Treasury said officials would be looking at ways to ease the pressure of rising fuel costs in the run up to the budget.
A spokesperson said: “The Government recognises that higher fuel prices increase the cost of living for people and are examining options as part of the Budget process, including a fair fuel stabiliser that would reduce fuel duty as oil prices rise but increase them when they drop.”
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