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Saturday, 27 December 2014

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Rising fuel costs are crippling us, claims Cumbrian haulage boss

A Cumbrian haulier has reported the worst trading conditions in nearly 40 years as soaring fuel prices eat into profits and cripple local businesses.

John Stamper photo
John Stamper

John Stamper, owner and director of Kirkbride-based RI Stamper Haulage, employs around 14 staff but warns that if the price of fuel continues to rise he could be forced to lay people off.

He said: “It’s had a big knock-on effect for us. This is the worst it has been.

“I have just had a look at fuel prices again this morning and it’s scary.

“You can’t just take it on the chin. We have to work for the people who reward us for doing the work.

“I don’t know what the answer is but these are very difficult times.

“You also have to be very careful who you work for: it’s got to the stage that when you get a new customer you have to check them out.”

His comments come as the latest AA fuel price report found that the average cost of petrol in the UK has been above 130p a litre since last March and diesel above 140p since last July.

And with many motorists paying a tenth of their income just to fill up the family cars, calls are growing for the Government to intervene.

Mr Stamper said: “It’s a struggle to make a profit but you have to or else you are going to go under.

“We have been fairly fortunate so far in that we have been able to keep going. I think the reason is that we are a well-established firm.

“But the Government is going to have to look at this and support us, especially in rural areas.”

Diesel prices are almost back to record levels, figures from the AA showed this week.

The price of diesel at the pumps now averages 142.9p a litre – just shy of the record of 143.04p set last May.

Over the past month, the average price of diesel has gone up 0.8p a litre, while the average price of petrol has risen 1.46p to 135p a litre.

This is still 2.43p off the petrol record high, but since the start of the year the monthly fuel bill for a two-car family has risen £5.84.

Northern Ireland has the highest average petrol prices – 135.9p a litre – while northern England has the cheapest, at 134.2p.

Northern Ireland also has the dearest average diesel (143.5p a litre) while the cheapest is to be found in northern England and in Yorkshire and Humberside (142.3p).

Seaton driving instructor Trevor Fee said that because of the price of fuel he is making less now than when he started out more than a decade ago.

“It [the price of fuel] makes being self-employed very difficult. We can’t put our prices up because we are in the middle of a recession in a working class area.

“We are taking it on the chin but it’s a struggle. I think we are on the limit now.

“Regarding the amount that I can charge a pupil and relating it back to what you pay for any fuel, I’m getting less of an income now than when I first started.”

He added that he would like to see the Government reduce the slice it takes in fuel tax to help people through the financial crisis.

Brian McCullough, of the Carlisle Taxi Association, would also like to see fuel duty slashed but is concerned that this could be passed on to drivers.

He added: “Business is absolutely terrible. But if your car needs a drink, it needs a drink. If you are not earning the money you stay out longer.

“Every taxi driver is working an extra two to four hours a week.

“It’s not becoming dangerous but like any other member of the general public we like to have time off and to spend quality time with our families. I don’t think the recession has hit yet.”

According to an e-petition launched by MP Robert Halfon, petrol and diesel are now so astronomically expensive, it is costing the Government money because fewer people can afford to drive, leading to lower tax revenues.

The petition has already reached more than 100,000 signatures, guaranteeing a debate on the topic.

It calls on the Government to scrap the planned fuel duty increases; create a price stabilisation mechanism that smoothes out fluctuations in the pump price; pressure big oil companies to pass on cheaper oil to motorists; set up a commission to look at market competitiveness plus radical ways of cutting fuel taxes in the longer term.

This e-petition will remain live, and people are still able to continue adding their signatures online atepetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/347.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “The UK’s rate of inflation may have fallen but that comes as cold comfort for consumers and businesses that depend on their vehicles and see pump prices nearing last year’s records.

“The fact is that, in aperiod of stagnant wages, petrol costs 23p a litre more and diesel 29p a litre more than in February 2010, when fuel price rises picked up pace. A typical 50-litre petrol refill now costs £11.50 more and filling an 80-litre commercial van tank with diesel has risen £23.20.

“In inflationary terms, that is a 20.5 per cent rise in two years for petrol and a 25.6 per cent increase for diesel over the same period.

“Consequently, we will be reminding the Chancellor before the March Budget that his 3p fuel duty increase ear-marked for August 1 should be scrapped if these high pump prices persist.”

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