'Ridiculous and something needs to be done' – South Shields residents react to rocketing fuel prices ahead of Rishi Sunak's Spring Budget Statement

“Ridiculous and something needs to be done” – South Shields residents have been having their say on the spiraling prices at the pumps with the average cost of petrol and diesel rocketing to £1.67 and £1.79 respectively.

The record breaking prices have been fuelled by instability in the global market with the conflict between Russia – the European Union's biggest oil trading partner – and Ukraine now in its fourth week.

As western sanctions continue to be imposed there are fears Russia could retaliate and restrict its oil pipeline supplies to Europe, creating a reduction in supply and pushing up demand.

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The USA and Canada have banned buying Russian oil which means demand for oil from other producers has increased, also leading to higher prices.

While global market forces have undoubtedly played a role, many local motorists have pointed to the significant level of duty on petrol and diesel – which currently stands at 57.95 pence per litre - in addition to the standard 20 per cent VAT.

Ahead of tomorrow’s (March 23) Spring Budget Statement, the situation has led to calls for the Chancellor to reduce the current level of taxation on fuel.

It’s a policy which computer analyst Eddie Haughton, 50, would wholeheartedly support.

He said: “The cost of fuel is definitely affecting my decision as to whether I use my car. I can generally work from home, but there are times I need to be on-site and it does make me think about how I get there.

Eddie Haughton, 50, believes a five pence reduction on fuel duty would be "better than nothing".

"What I don’t understand is how petrol stations seem to be putting up their prices almost daily when I’m sure they aren’t taking new deliveries of fuel everyday.

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“I’m certainly not using my car as much as I normally would and I definitely think the Government need to be looking at reducing the duty on fuel.”

Fellow motorist, Alex Smith, 80, said: “We were in the West Midlands two weeks ago and the prices were even more expensive down there. It does make you think about the car journeys you do. If we holiday in the UK then I think we are going to be doing a coach trip.

"I’m a former miner and I think more could have been done to develop our own resources so we didn’t become so dependent on other nations for our fossil fuels.”

Ahead of his Spring Budget Statement, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is coming under increasing pressure to reduce the duty on petrol and diesel.
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Mounting speculation suggests during his address to Parliament tomorrow, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a five pence reduction on the current rate of fuel duty.

While welcoming the sentiment, both Alex and Eddie feel it doesn’t go far enough.

Eddie said: “Five pence is better than nothing but it’s nowhere near enough.”

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Thomas Blenkoe, 81, believes the Government should do more to reduce the duty on fuel.

Alex added: “I think the Government should do something to reduce fuel duty but I’m not sure with the current prices that five pence will make much of a difference.”

Alex’s wife, Eileen Smith, 78, feels additional support should be directed elsewhere.

She said: “This is just another rise in the cost of living for people to have to deal with. Some people really are facing a choice of eating or heating. If they are going to look to reduce costs then I would rather they did something more on the cost of electricity and gas.”

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Paul Gilmour, 59, who used to work in the oil and gas industry, feels taxation levels “should never have reached this point”.

He added: “I got rid of my car and if I had one now then I wouldn’t be using it. I really feel for all these people who are on the breadline. The cost of petrol is ridiculous and fuel duty should never have reached its current level. It’s just another way for the Government to make more money.”

While there was common consensus at the “extortionate price” of fuel, some residents felt the Government shouldn’t necessarily reduce fuel duty.

Paul Gilmour, 59, believes fuel duty "should never have got this high".
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Retail Supervisor Stuart Prince, 63, said: “I’m thinking of getting rid of my vehicle due to the cost of running it. To fill my tank is about £80 where as it used to be £60. I’ve started walking and using the Metro more as it’s cheaper.

"It’s a hard one for the Government as they are still feeling the cost of Covid and they need money coming in.”

Nancy Arthur, 37, added: “I can understand why there are calls for a temporary reduction in taxation on fuel but where is this money spent? The Government need money coming in to pay for services such as the NHS.

"It’s not quite as simple as just saying reduce taxation. It might also push us towards electric cars and other forms of energy.”

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Whatever decision the Chancellor makes, shoppers who spoke with the Gazette are concerned that even when the global price of crude oil does fall, whether it will be fully passed on to the customer.

Steve Gascoyne, 64, who was honeymooning in the area with wife Madeline, said: “We have a caravan and if the cost of fuel does get up towards £2 per litre then that really would make us consider where we travel on trips away. You do worry that if people get accustomed to paying these prices, will they ever return to where they once were?

"It will certainly come down a lot slower than it went up.”

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Responding to the situation an HM Treasury spokesperson said: “To keep costs down, fuel duty has been frozen for the twelfth year in a row, which will save drivers around £15 every time they fill up their tank compared to pre-2010 plans.

“We’re providing around £21 billion this financial year and next to help families, which also includes cutting the Universal Credit taper rate, freezing alcohol duty, and helping households with their energy bills through our £9.1 billion Energy Bills Rebate.”

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Alex Smith, 80, believes the UK has become overdependent on fossil fuels, including oil from other nations.
Steve and Madeline Gascoyne are concerned that prices at the pumps will not return to previous levels.
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Stuart Prince, 63, believes the Government are in a "difficult position" as they are still having to pay for the costs of the Covid pandemic.