Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Road Haulage, Freight and Fuel Lobby Groups Respond to Autumn Budget

If There Is a No Deal Brexit All Bets Are Off
Shipping News Feature
UK – The budget received a mixed response from a variety of players in the logistics industry as representatives from various factions responded to Chancellor Philip Hammond's pre-Brexit financial adjustments. Whilst the response was mixed from both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) one prominent campaign group was less than complimentary.

Both the RHA and the FTA welcomed the news that infrastructure was to be a priority with the announcement that a total of £30 billion for motorway and other major road improvements is to be earmarked, with £420 million of that immediately available for pothole repairs. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett, commented:

“While on the one hand this is both good and welcome news, we need to see work start on improving our road network now. Congestion resulting from road improvements costs the haulage industry millions of pounds each year. We are already heading towards another cold winter and the potholes resulting from last winter’s freezing conditions still need to be fixed before they get even worse.”

The RHA however was pleased that Government will halve the amount smaller firms have to pay to hire an apprentice from 10% to 5%. Meanwhile the FTA, whilst welcoming no change as regards vehicle duty rates was less enthusiastic about those infrastructure announcements with Head of UK Policy Christopher Snelling saying:

“The £420m announced in today’s Budget to repair potholes is a drop in the ocean when you consider that work that will cost more than £8 billion is needed to rectify years of under investment in our road network. The damage caused by potholes to the UK’s logistics fleet is adding unnecessary cost to the operation of vehicles tasked with keeping Britain trading, and FTA is concerned that the funding released by the Chancellor today will mean that operators will continue to incur these unreasonable costs at a time of extreme trading pressure.

”More could and should have been done to help the logistics sector at such a critical time in the nation’s trading history. It is a lost opportunity. The freeze on the Heavy Goods Vehicle HGV VED for 2019-20 is to be welcomed, and the FTA is particularly pleased to hear that the government is set to maintain the difference between alternative and main road fuel duty rates until 2032. This will support the de-carbonisation of the UK transport sector and give operators confidence to invest in alternatively fuelled vehicles.”

FairFuel UK is of course an organisation with a single agenda, set up with funding from both the RHA and FTA it has been unswerving in its criticism of the Chancellor despite the extended duty freeze on fuel. It was keen to point out that its latest survey found Mr Hammond is regarded as the most out-of-touch politician in the country, and founder Howard Cox lambasted the Chancellor saying:

“Sadly and true to form, despite the continuing and welcome hold in fuel duty, this Government still does not get it, when it comes to our motoring nation. No necessary cut in duty to stimulate the economy, utter silence on those greedy unchecked oil companies continuing to fleece hard pressed motorists at will, and no incentives to move to practical low emissions solutions to improve our air quality. And if Brexit collapses is there the spectre of crippling tax hikes at the pumps to come.

”A hollow Budget, from and out of touch Chancellor who’s clueless to what to do with UK roads, public transport and our freedom of mobility. We are not here to declare war on the Treasury, but to many of us it feels like the Treasury, along with the Department for Environment, are waging war on drivers, bikers and anyone who uses a van or lorry. The easiest of targets to fill the coffers at the Treasury.”

It is however the comment on Britain post Brexit which may in fact be the most relevant. The Chancellor made it clear that the funds freed up by his amendments depend wholly on the money being available after Britain stops paying into the EU budget. As the deadline for a deal draws ever nearer there are certainly no guarantees that this will be the case which could give the government the excuse to blame any continuation of the ‘age of austerity’ onto the politicians in Brussels.

Photo: A smiling Chancellor delivers his Autumn 2018 Budget speech.