After Slashing Active Travel Funding, Government Keeps £4.8 billion Fuel Price Discount

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Hannah argues that the 2023 budget is taking us in the wrong direction.

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Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

More posts from Hannah

Viewing 30 posts - 1 through 30 (of 30 total)
  • After Slashing Active Travel Funding, Government Keeps £4.8 billion Fuel Price Discount
  • PrinceJohn
    Full Member

    Once again something that needs to be shouted from the rooftops – but never will be because car is king.

    hightensionline
    Full Member

    Makes you wonder how Norman Tebbit’s Dad would cope today. Even he would struggle to get on his bike and look for work these days.

    charliedontsurf
    Full Member

    That £4.8 billion… that’s about £150 per income tax payer.

    When I look at the state of the country, the strikes, the holes in the roads, food banks, 7,000,000 on NHS waiting lists. 27% of children living in poverty. I don’t think… “if only I spent £100 less on fuel, everything would be great”.

    If I want to spend £100 less on fuel I can achieve this be planning ahead and not running out of milk and driving 5 miles to get more. Or working from home a few days a month. Or cycling to work a couple of times a month. Or riding locally rather than a trip to the lakes. Or not owning motorbikes that blast through fuel for no good reason other than pleasure.

    turneround
    Full Member

    Mick Lynch would sort this country out….

    rone
    Full Member

    Household budget myth perpetuates lack of money.

    Means; we can’t have nice things because of policy choices rather than lack of money.

    Push back – the government is not fiscally constrained. Vote for parties that acknowledge government spending is essential to a healthy economy.

    Otherwise keep losing stuff…

    joefm
    Full Member

    Active travel, green energy is just lip service from this government. Still over £40bn for road building in the capital budget, yet new active travel gets pittance, especially when you spread that over 40 authorities

    johnjn2000
    Full Member

    For a bit of balance on the active travel fund and its value and worth. It is ripe for misuse and a number of examples are coming to light across the country, and I have 1 example very close to my heart.

    There is a road about half a mile from my front door that I use to get to a bridleway on my bike, and to avoid a busy A road to go to a pub that sits at the end of it or to go to the tip or to reach the dog walk area. This road has been used for centuries, it has enough width for 2 cars to pass each other but is a bit awkward if you get cars and cyclists combining but nothing that common sense couldn’t work out if people had some. For the last decade, maybe more, the local residents who live on that road (about 7 houses) have been trying to make it access only for them. It has come up for a vote at least twice and each time it saw the majority wanting to keep it open. There is a local councillor or two involved in this campaign to close it and all of a sudden during the pandemic the road was closed to allow people to go for a walk. During this time, as if by magic, the road became part of HCC “Active Travel Plan” and it stayed closed for 2yrs. It has been open now for 12 months and again the residents have somehow managed to get it considered for the active travel plan and consultations are going on with residents. This time the only residents being targetted with a paper copy are those that actually live on the road, so the ones that want to keep it closed. Everyone else has to actively search for an online survey, and when they find it, they find the most badly worded and biased survey you will ever read.

    An example of the questions: If the road was closed do you think it would make it safer for children? There is no other answer than yes, if you close any road it will make it safer for children. The thing with this road is that no children will use it, there is no school run, no park, absolutely no reason for a child to go on that road.
    Next question: If the road was closed would it make it safer for pedestrians? FFS, yes, closing a bloody motorway would make it safer for pedestrians.

    Anyway the survey continues in that way throughout. So, my point. The active travel fund is only as good as the people that have access to the money, and a lot of them are really, really not worthy of that responsibility.

    ratherbeintobago
    Full Member

    As per previous, I’d strongly encourage anyone who wants the AT budget restoring to get involved (even if it’s just joining to see what’s going on, and maybe filling in the odd council consultation) with their local campaign group. DM me if you’re in Greater Manchester and want pointing in the right direction.

    The fuel duty thing is wrong for a load of other reasons though, not least of which is that it actively subsides driving in a climate crisis…

    bax_burner
    Full Member

    Well said Hannah. I do think, however, that we should all stop referring to it as “Fuel Tax”. It is indeed a tax on fuel, but only such fuel that is used by motor vehicles. It would be better described as the motoring tax it is. Maybe this would make clear, as Hannah does, that the Treasury is specifically subsidising and sanctioning the use of polluting vehicles at the expense of the tax payer.

    mtbfix
    Full Member

    Let’s be honest with ourselves here. This has no bearing on quality of the health of the environment, populace or country. It has everything to do with the lynch-pin of political life, ‘stay in power’. I’d be prepared to wager that people interested in active travel will tend to be more eco conscious and probably politically left of centre. So not a great well of votes for the conservatives. Same with the pension cap. It only affects people of a certain age and demographic, and that body of the population are square in the demographic of Tory voters. Increasing the cost of motoring in the year before a general election is the turkeys voting for Christmas. The govt are making all kinds of desperate promises to retain the Red Wall seats won in ’19 and I’m sure that every policy, spend and saving in the next 12 months will be directed at shoring up electoral support for next year. What happens after that is a problem for the future and modern political thinking rarely seems to engage with the long term view.

    Rubber_Buccaneer
    Full Member

    Phew, I can still afford to drive my SUV to Peaslake for a bit of MTB

    ThruntonThrasher
    Full Member

    Hannah

    I support active travel in every way I can and strongly believe in it and the need to fund it properly. I also agree with you about the stupidity of a fuel price discount. One of the reasons I come to this website is for informed opinion in the area of active travel.

    The transition to net zero is a complex subject and carbon capture is one fairly small part of that transition. I work in this carbon capture research and every person I work with or talk to sees it as a transition technology that will disappear once we have a green energy system. If you want to stimulate debate in this area you should recommend that readers go to the International Energy Agency GreenHouse Gas (IEAGHG) website so that they are exposed to all the arguments for and against. If you want to see how much green energy the UK generates and what happens when the wind doesn’t blow and/or the sun doesn’t shine, go here https://grid.iamkate.com/.

     

     

    prettygreenparrot
    Full Member

    Though fuel duty is a regressive tax, and therefore unfair, it is one of the few taxes that could influence consumption and consequently pollution.

    That HMG have chosen to use this opportunity to further subsidise fossil fuels is disappointing. Not unexpected. That it comes on top of cutting what was fairly cosmetic active transport funding is very disappointing.

    Northwind
    Full Member

    Check the working… The cost is £4.8 billion. They say it saves the average driver £100 per year. That isn’t true. Pretty confident on that because there are only 41 million licenced drivers, and 33 million licenced cars in the UK of all fuel types. That 41 million includes everyone that has a licence but doesn’t drive, everyone who has a licence but only drives company vehicles, everyone who’s on a temporary medical dq and everyone that’s suspended, and as a footnote an estimated quarter of a million dead people.

    It’s also of course a regressive tax, and gender and age imbalanced. But most of all it’s a way to defuse demand for a windfall tax, by slightly reducing user costs while not reducing profits.

    Me, I’m pretty confident I haven’t saved £100 in fuel tax in the last year (ie burned 200 litres) Am I some freakishly unaverage driver, with my 3 cars, my recreational driving, my 20mpg daily driver and my trackday habit? Obviously yes but apparently I’m below average.

    benpinnick
    Full Member

    Though fuel duty is a regressive tax, and therefore unfair, it is one of the few taxes that could influence consumption and consequently pollution.

    Surely its not regressive – it’s progressive. Common sense tells me that the wealthier you are the more likely you have a car that consumes more fuel and less likely to use public transport/alternative transport means/live closer to your workplace. Electric cars are probably causing some issues with the theory but overall I can’t see how you could think fuel duty to be a regressive tax.

    Some also agree with my view it would seem – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/22/fuel-price-cuts-uk-suv-driving-elite-rishi-sunak

    thisisnotaspoon
    Free Member

    Me, I’m pretty confident I haven’t saved £100 in fuel tax in the last year (ie burned 200 litres) Am I some freakishly unaverage driver, with my 3 cars, my recreational driving, my 20mpg daily driver and my trackday habit? Obviously yes but apparently I’m below average.

    “Average” is circa ~1000litres per year (45mpg/10,0000 miles) IIRC.

    Surely its not regressive – it’s progressive. Common sense tells me that the wealthier you are the more likely you have a car that consumes more fuel and less likely to use public transport/alternative transport means/live closer to your workplace.

    I’d be interested if anyone can actually do/find some quantified work on it. But, at the bottom end the poorest don’t have a car, so get zero benefit from the tax cut.

    So while transport fuel might cost similar for everyone in the top ~90% of the population, it’s not really linear.

    And the higher paid your job is, the more likely/further you are to commute to it. People on NMW aren’t generally the ones making 1 hour commutes each way by car as they’d be passing multiple warehouses, supermarkets, retail parks, restaurants, hospitality etc on that commute.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Free Member

    The budget also announced a commitment to invest £20 billion over the next two decades – let’s call it £1 billion a year, shall we – on carbon capture and storage projects. That’s projects that hope to deal with the carbon once it’s out there, rather than preventing it at source – and there are currently significant questions about the efficacy of carbon capture projects. Indeed, some carbon carbon capture technology is actually used to aid in the extraction of oil. Most climate activists are focussed on reducing carbon emissions, and increasing carbon storage through habitat preservation and restoration.

    And this treads a line between missleading and untrue.

    that’s projects that hope to deal with the carbon once it’s out there

    No, it is, to quote the article itself “preventing it at source”. The principal is you extract an amount of natural gas (CH4), convert it into 2 H2 and 1CO2, and replace that CH4 in the ground with the CO2. Which pushes a bit more CH4 out that may otherwise have not been extracted, but it’s not ‘more’ in carbon terms because you’re burring as much as you extract.

    That, even though imperfect, is a far better outcome than heating a house with the CH4 directly which is how pretty much all homes and workplaces are at the moment.

    Two projects currently in planning/underway are the project to decarbonize the industrial areas around Teesside by replacing the industrial gas network with hydrogen. And a similar project on Merseyside (I was slightly confused as it’s a place called Whitby, but no the two projects aren’t both in Yorkshire).

    there are currently significant questions about the efficacy of carbon capture projects

    Which is why they’re spending ‘only’ a billion a year on some pilot projects and learn some lessons before deciding if it’s worth committing to doing more areas or the whole country.

    the-muffin-man
    Full Member

    If I want to spend £100 less on fuel I can achieve this be planning ahead and not running out of milk and driving 5 miles to get more. Or working from home a few days a month. Or cycling to work a couple of times a month.

    You can probably do it personally – not so easy if your business or service relies on road transport. Applies to your 40 ton HGV or your local care assistant.

    Higher fuel charges mean higher prices on everything for all of us.

    Perhaps some sort of personal use/business use tax system could be implemented. Businesses could perhaps claim a certain percentage back each quarter through the tax system.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Free Member

    Higher fuel charges mean higher prices on everything for all of us.

    Is a myth pedaled by the road haulage association. The actual cost of the fuel tax, spread across an entire lorry load, is minute. And it doesn’t save you anything, because that £4.9billion has to be found somewhere. If it’s not Eddie Stobart adding <1p to your 6 pinter of milk, it’s got to be something else (income, corporation, VAT), so it doesn’t cost you anything unless whatever it was moved to was something that did have no impact on you.

    Perhaps some sort of personal use/business use tax system could be implemented. Businesses could perhaps claim a certain percentage back each quarter through the tax system.

    They already do, they can claim back the VAT.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    Compared to pre-ukraine-war times, how much tax per litre is the government receiving?
    fuel is subject to VAT as well as fuel duty.

    Words like “subsidising car travel” and “saving motorists £100/year” is very creative accounting from both sides of the argument.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    I’m sorry but I’m struggling to see how tax on fuel can possibly be described as a subsidy to motorists. Sure the government might have not put that tax up again this time but it’s still taxed.

    Even if it’s e-bikes replacing car journeys, it’s a lower carbon footprint than a car.

    Only if you have already bought the ebike. How many journeys would you have to use it for to offset the carbon footprint of building and shipping it and its raw materials round the world.

    irc
    Full Member

    Reducing a tax is not a subsidy. It is just taxing us less in that one small area while the overall tax burden is the highest since WW2.

    The big tax increase for most people will be the fact the govt has yet again not raised tax thresholds. So after pay rises a higher percentage of your income is getting taxed.

    kelvin
    Full Member

    I’m sorry but I’m struggling to see how tax on fuel can possibly be described as a subsidy to motorists.

    The externalities of burning petrol and diesel are ________ huge (yet too easily ignored).

    chrismac
    Full Member

    The externalities of burning petrol and diesel are ________ huge (yet too easily ignored).

    Agreed just as the externalities of making lithium batteries are also ignored as it the cost and impact of disposing of them. The amount of money being spent on research to work out what do do with old lithium batteries is huge, especially those used in cars which don’t have to degrade very much before they are no longer suitable to power a car

    kelvin
    Full Member

    Much of that research is in second lives and reuse. No doubt there are environmental and social costs of extraction and manufacturing and disposing of batteries. But that’s whataboutism, as we’re looking at tax on fossil fuels for the cars we have in use. The discussion was whether we’re being “subsidised” when buying fuel to burn… and in deciding that you need to look at the huge costs beyond buying at the pump. The (direct) pollution from using our vehicles, and the effects on air quality as well as climate change, need to be taken into account. Polluter pays and all that. Things most people can do are drive less, share more, drive slower… nothing to do with batteries. I know I couldn’t afford an electric car no matter what the tax/subsidy situation. It’s not part of the equation for millions of others either.

    Northwind
    Full Member

    Oops, typo in my last, I meant 2000 litres not 200! Which at 5p a litre is £100 a year.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    “Average” is circa ~1000litres per year (45mpg/10,0000 miles) IIRC.

    The average was 7400 pre-pandemic apparently, it’s presumably a good bit lower now

    But yep, whether it’s 7400 or 10000 miles, the average is not going to give £100 savings as claimed.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    The amount of money being spent on research to work out what do do with old lithium batteries is huge, especially those used in cars which don’t have to degrade very much before they are no longer suitable to power a car

    There’s a lot of ongoing research, which is normal. But there’s also already pretty good outcomes. Tired ex-car batteries are excellent donors for powerwalls and other similar distributed batteries, frinstance.

    Tesla claim that the batteries themselves are already fully recycled or reused. Whether that’s true, I don’t know.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Free Member

    But yep, whether it’s 7400 or 10000 miles, the average is not going to give £100 savings as claimed.

    Hmmm, yea it comes out more like £50/year. So either someone’s doubled it “this will save £50/year, but I’ll include last year to make it a nice round number” next person to read the draft “this has already run for a year ……..”. Or they’re including indirect costs like busses, taxis, haulage, construction, couriers, etc.

    Agreed just as the externalities of making lithium batteries are also ignored as it the cost and impact of disposing of them. The amount of money being spent on research to work out what do do with old lithium batteries is huge, especially those used in cars which don’t have to degrade very much before they are no longer suitable to power a car

    You’re starting from the premise that the only solution is more cars.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    If we want to move people for vehicles that burn fossil fuels to one’s that dont then there will be an increase in cars unless we find away of converting them. For there to be fewer cars then there has to be good enough infrastructure for households to reduce the average number of cars they have. That I would suggest is going to be a huge ask

    centripedal
    Free Member

    Well said Hannah. I came to article via the podcast. I see why you checked before publishing! Like you I’m concerned about where government priorities lie.

    Opposition also disappoint on occasion. They fret about upsetting potential voters, and duck out of taking strong positions.

    I admit I do sometimes bite my tongue on environmental issues so as not to alienate too many acquaintances e.g. as they share stories of jetting off on holiday.

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    I like Protect Our Winters’ idea of ‘imperfect advocacy’ https://protectourwinters.uk/

    I think it helps when it comes to talking about environmental issues @centripedal – I have a trans-atlantic relationship, so I’m no innocent! But it doesn’t mean we can’t try to be better, or hold governments to account for their choices.

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