Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that fuel duty would remain frozen when he made his Autumn Statement.
Karen Dee, the Freight Transport Association’s director of policy, welcomed the chancellor’s reassurance on fuel duty. “The Chancellor should be congratulated for resisting the temptation to raise some additional revenue at the expense of the freight industry and other road users,” she said.
“We are, however, disappointed that the chancellor did not go further and cut fuel duties. Independent research has demonstrated that this could deliver a further boost to the UK economy and we will continue our efforts to persuade Government to take action.”
However, the Road Haulage Association said the government had missed an opportunity to lead a transformational change in the logistics industry and boost growth.
Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “We face a serious and worsening shortage of lorry drivers, which is already holding back growth, and significant government funding is needed to reverse that. This is fast becoming the biggest issue that the road haulage industry has ever had to cope with. There is a 45,000 driver shortage now, 35,000 drivers are due to retire within the next year and only 17,000 drivers are joining the industry.”
Dee also referred to the driver shortage, pointing out that it was adding further pressure at the busiest time of year. “But this problem will extend beyond Christmas and it is essential that government works with the industry to encourage skills development within the sector and to identify innovative ways to incentivise the uptake of vocational training.”
Osborne forecast that the economy would grow three per cent this year and 2.4 per cent next year. And he set out plans to double Small Business Rate Relief for another year. He also said that there would be a review of the structure of business rates.
Phil Orford, chief executive at the Forum of Private Business, welcomed the action on business rates for small businesses.
“It is good to see that the Chancellor has agreed with our suggestions of short term measures to reduce the pain of excessive property taxation with continued a continued cap of 2 per cent, a £1,500 discount for retail properties and an extension on Small Business Rates Relief.
“While we also welcome the Chancellor’s decision to answer our repeated calls for a proper review of the system and the way in which it is calculated, the devil will definitely be in the detail. With the review scheduled for after the General Election, we are keen to see all parties commit to making concrete moves to tackle an issue that many businesses feel has needed addressing for some time.
Orford also highlighted the development of a Northern Powerhouse incorporating several major cities, and increased tax raising powers to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
He said: “Our members see this as a very positive further step in re-balancing our economy, not only in terms of financial services and manufacturing, but also in a commitment to support major regional and local development plans outside of London and the south-east.”