Farmers and industry leaders have reacted angrily after Chancellor George Osborne ignored calls to scrap a 3p rise in fuel duty.
In his Budget speech on Wednesday (21 March), Mr Osborne said the planned 3.02p rise in fuel duty would take effect on 1 August as planned.
AA president Edmund King said the fuel duty rise in August was a “Budget blow-out” that would force drivers off the road, bringing a summer of discontent for many.
“We have heard much about tax allowances, but the increase in fuel duty makes no allowance for car-dependent, rural and disabled drivers,” he added.
“Only last week the Prime Minister told American students that UK fuel prices would make them ‘faint’, yet the government seems intent on inflicting more pain for no gain on drivers.
“Ironically, such a hike in duty doesn’t necessarily help government finances, as people will cut spending at the pumps and in shops, and it could fuel inflation.”
NFU president Peter Kendall said farmers, especially those living in rural areas, were already suffering from recent rises in fuel prices and this only added further financial pain.
“Farmers will be unhappy with the chancellor’s decision not to stop the rise in fuel duty planned for this August, especially as rural areas tend to suffer from higher fuel prices, while the price of fuel used on farm continues to rise dramatically,” said Mr Kendall.
The planned increase looks likely to raise petrol prices to about 145p/litre and diesel to 150p/litre.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales accused the chancellor of ignoring rural areas.
FUW business director Emyr James said fuel costs were the biggest expense for Welsh farmers and those living in rural areas.
“It’s extremely disappointing that this Budget will do little to help businesses in our rural communities,” he said.
“The chancellor’s decision to ignore widespread demands for a cut in fuel duty means that, according to Automobile Association figures, UK diesel prices remain the second highest in Europe and in Wales, at an average of 145.9p/litre, they are the second highest in the UK.”
“Fuel costs are unavoidable and are becoming more and more difficult to bear for those living and working in rural areas,” Mr James added.
A farmer at Tynbryn Farms, in Tynbryn, Newtown, Powys said farmers were feeling “very angry” about rising fuel costs.
“Our fuel bills, including heating oil, used to be £2,000 not so long ago, but now they are nearly £4,000. This is just another expense,” said the farmer.
“Our bills are just going up and up. We have got three farms and they are miles apart, but despite the high fuel prices we have got to keep checking our animals.
“We just can’t afford to stop checking them regularly, as it could become an animal welfare issue.”
North of the border, NFU Scotland vice-president John Picken said high fuel duty was an increasing problem for transport and haulage, which were particularly important for Scottish farming.
“Whether delivering inputs, moving stock, taking produce to the marketplace or distributing food to customers, Scotland, and especially our remote areas and islands, rely on transport as a necessity and not just a luxury,” he added.