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Soaring diesel prices put a £2m squeeze on ambulance service
RISING fuel prices have seen South Central Ambulance Service’s diesel bill skyrocket by £2m over four years.
The emergency service paid £2,985,000 for fuel during the 2007-8 financial year, but by 2011-12 the total had jumped to £4,870,571.
Businesses across the country have also seen their bills rise steadily and Oxfordshire firms are now calling on Chancellor George Osborne to cancel a planned fuel duty hike.
They said he should use Wednesday’s budget to freeze the Government’s tax take in the wake of a 10p rise in petrol prices in little over a month.
The Oxford Mail has monitored petrol prices in the city over the past three months, and seen a dramatic rise in that time.
In late January the Esso garage in Oxpens Road, Oxford, was charging £1.31.9 a litre for unleaded and £1.39.9 for diesel, rising steadily throughout February until hitting £1.41.9 and £1.46.9 by last Monday. Yesterday prices had fallen to £1.38.9 and £1.44.9 when supermarkets began a price war.
John Werrell, owner of Oxford haulage company John Werrell & Son Ltd, agreed that freezing the price of fuel is the least the Chancellor should do.
He said: “Fuel is easily our biggest cost now and we don’t want it going up any more. We have 12 HGVs delivering all over the UK, so it has a huge effect on everything we do.”
Barbara Plastow, of Wheatley-based coach firm Plastow’s Travel, said: “We have to swallow it. We are not the kind of company that can go to its customers and say ‘we need more money’.
“The profit margins are disappearing down the plughole because of a lot of things. The fuel will be a big one.”
She pointed to the collapse last year of Witney’s RH Coaches and Brackley’s Jeffs Coaches, which served North Oxfordshire.
She said: “Unless they give some concessions to businesses, transport is going to keep putting up prices and companies are not going to survive.”
Liz Wright is a self-employed mobile hairdresser from Thame and said it is becoming too expensive to drive to some jobs.
She said: “If I get a call for a cut that is too far away it is just not worth me driving there. I would like them to freeze fuel duty, or even bring it down, but I don’t think they will. It only ever goes up.”
According to PetrolPrices.com, the current average price for a litre of unleaded petrol in the UK is £1.37.1 – almost two pence cheaper than in Oxford.
Of that 43.6 per cent goes towards fuel duty, 36.9 per cent goes to producers, 16.7 per cent is VAT and 3.8 per cent goes to the retailer.
In January this year the Office of Fair Trading blamed the increase in petrol prices on tax and duty hikes, saying it found no evidence of anti-competitive behaviour among oil and petrol companies.
Fuel duty has not gone up since January 2011, when it was increased by 0.76p per litre to 58.95p. It was then cut by 1p in March 2011 and has remained at 57.95p since.
According to Basil Shrourou, from fuelpricesonline.com, the two factors driving up prices are the weak pound and rising price of oil on the international market.
The Petroleum Industry Association – which represents producers – said 59 per cent of pump prices go to the Treasury and “strong competition” means UK prices are “among the lowest in the EU, excluding duty and VAT”.
The Treasury and South Central Ambulance Service declined to comment.