Northumberland misses out on 5p rural fuel duty cut

Northumberland councillors and MPs are unhappy that the county has missed out on a 5p rural fuel duty cut planned by the Government

Guy Opperman has urged David Cameron to cut fuel duty
Northumberland has missed out on a 5p rural fuel duty cut

Government plans for a 5p cut in fuel duty for rural areas have fallen foul of Northumberland councillors and MPs after the county missed out.

Calls had been made to help families in the North East countryside who are, by nature of where they live, forced to spend more on petrol and diesel.

But of the ten new locations put forward to join the remote Inner and Outer Hebrides, Northern Isles, and Scilly Isles in receiving a tax cut seven are in Scotland, with the other three in North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Devon.

Druridge Bay Labour councillor Scott Dickinson was angry that his county has missed out.

“Danny Alexander’s 5p fuel duty cut for 10 rural areas is a slap in the face of rural households and businesses in our county as we’ve again been snubbed,” he said.

“Only a month ago, Tory Hexham MP Guy Opperman was calling on David Cameron to cut fuel duty for rural areas in Northumberland but now we’ve found out that Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander has picked seven constituencies in Scotland from a list of 10.

Hexham MP Guy Opperman
Hexham MP Guy Opperman
 

“Clearly, Sir Alan Beith and Guy Opperman have been ignored and you’ve got to wonder why Cameron and Clegg’s Con Dem government continue to ignore the needs of our county.”

Northumberland is classed by the Government as being over 79% rural, and Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith said in the wake of the disappointing announcement he would again look to put pressure on ministers to extend the scheme to this region.

However he claimed that one of the reasons that may be holding the county back was its status as a unitary authority, which covers both rural and densely populated urban areas.

Rural Northumberland has an extremely strong case for being part of the fuel duty discount scheme and I will continue to press that case with ministers,” he said.

“But Northumberland seems to be suffering from Labour’s creation of the unitary authority, which lumps together some of the most sparsely populated parts of England with densely populated urban areas for statistical purposes.”

The cut will still need to be approved by the European Commission but there are precedents in Greece and Corsica. Critics have pointed out that eight of the ten areas to benefit are in constituencies with Liberal Democrat MPs – two of them in Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander’s own seat.

Four are in the constituency of former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and one in Conservative foreign secretary William Hague’s Richmond constituency.

Labour economy spokesman and Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell said people would want reassurances that the Government is not only interested in helping out those who vote for its ministers.

“The public will want to be reassured this is no more than a coincidence because nobody will thank a Lib Dem Treasury Minister who refuses to tackle the cost of living crisis everywhere but his own back yard,” she said.

Mr Alexander said the selection had been a “completely objective process.”

“The list has been drawn up with pretty strict criteria,” he said.

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