Pumping out piffle as fuel prices soar

I'M getting a bit fed up with the Tweedledum and Tweedledee act of Chancellor Alastair Darling and his shadow George Osborne over fuel prices and what should happen to excise duty.

Paul Geater

I'M getting a bit fed up with the Tweedledum and Tweedledee act of Chancellor Alastair Darling and his shadow George Osborne over fuel prices and what should happen to excise duty.

I wish they would listen to the only Westminster politician who's had anything sensible to say on the subject - South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo.

In fact both the chancellor and his shadow have shown that they have no real understanding of the economic or environmental impact of high fuel prices as they fall over each other to try to make political capital over a situation which poses the gravest threat to Western countries since the fuel crisis of 1973.

Mr Yeo was quite right when he told the government it was wrong to abandon plans for a rise in fuel excise in the autumn.

And Mr Osborne's call for a cut in excise duty because of the increase in world oil prices is either mischievous or frankly idiotic.

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Let's get one thing straight, both government and opposition politicians are peddling the idea that the rise in oil prices over recent months is a blip - a temporary phenomenon that will soon right itself and that prices will eventually come down again.

But according to most economists and energy experts, the current situation is far from being a “blip.” High prices are here to stay - and the only way for pump prices to go is up, hopefully not at quite the rate they have increased in recent months.

As demand for fuel, especially from India and China, increases there is no way that prices will return to the levels of a year ago.

As recession bites, we might get 10p off a litre at some point - but if you're waiting for an 80p litre of diesel to return, forget it.

We have to learn to live with higher prices - and that includes the increasingly-vocal haulage industry.

The government can't afford to give up its fuel excise duty - how do those campaigners want it to make up the money it loses if it is frozen for evermore?

Do they want us to pay extra income tax? Do they want VAT to be levied on food? Or do they want the government to spend less on vital services?

Do the campaigners want more cancer patients to be told they can't have drugs to save their lives because they can't be afforded?

Do they want teachers to be sacked because schools no longer have enough money to employ them?

Those ideas are daft. If the government was interested in the best way of running the country, rather than with trying to win a by-election in Glasgow, it would be telling us - and the big corporations - that we have to change the way we live.

If that means fewer juggernauts congesting our roads and pushing exhaust into the atmosphere, then that has to be a good by-product of the fuel price increase.

And if Mr Darling's decision to put off the fuel price increase was daft, then Mr Osborne's suggestion it should be lowered while fuel prices are high was totally irresponsible.

As I said, there is no evidence to suggest they will come down - and he really ought to listen to his party's talisman Lady Thatcher who once said: “You can't buck the market.”

To suggest that if the Conservatives come to power then all our economic ills will come to an end is a total fallacy - and Mr Osborne knows it.

The recession/credit crunch is a global phenomenon, sparked by the US which has one of the most right-wing governments in the world!

For the shadow chancellor to suggest he can wave a magic wand of lowering excise duty to end economic problems in Britain is little more than a cynical attempt to capture the headlines with a policy which would be totally unworkable.

FORMER county chief executive Clifford Smith was a fine public servant and Suffolk has much to thank him for after the important role he played local government here.

His devotion to the county council is admirable, and the arguments he puts for creating a single authority to run services across Suffolk deserve to be read with respect.

I have no doubt that there are councillors with great integrity and great balance who would run affairs if “One Suffolk” came into existence.

I also think that in a purely financial sense it might turn out to be the most efficient option for county - there would be no question of any duplication anywhere.

However, where the “One Suffolk” argument falls down flat is in its description as local government - if you have people from Brandon making decisions about Shotley, that can in no sense be described as “local”.

In his letter last week, Mr Smith made the point that you could use the same argument about Shotley villagers having a say in Rushmere's affairs.

I have to say there is much more chance of someone in Shotley having at least a basic knowledge of issues affecting Rushmere, only ten miles away, than there is of someone 50 miles away in Brandon knowing what is happening on the coast.

Frankly the most efficient way of running services is probably direct by Whitehall - but that takes away and democratic accountability.

Democracy has a price in terms of efficiency - and that is where a balance has to be reached.

What is important is that we end up with a system that is both efficient and accountable - and for the people of Ipswich, Felixstowe, and south east Suffolk generally, that has to be the “North Haven” or “Orwell” proposal.

THERE'S going to be a cricket match with real needle next week!

Ipswich council has reached the final of an inter-firm competition which will be played at Ransomes next Tuesday.

And its opponents will be . . . Suffolk County Council!

I suspect this match could make the Ashes look like a stroll in the park!