In the last statement before next years General Election, Chancellor George Osborne has announced a number of changes that will benefit fleets and road users.
The Autumn Statement focused predominantly on maintaining economic recovery, reducing the deficit, looking to build a “Northern powerhouse” and showing support for SMEs and the country’s future infrastructure.
In a statement, the Government said: ‘This Autumn Statement focuses on key productivity drivers including infrastructure, higher-level skills and innovation.’
Fleet relevant issues that were mentioned in the statement included:
The Chancellor confirmed that the freeze in fuel duty will remain in place despite falling oil prices. Commenting on the announcement, Mr Osborne said: ‘Despite falling fuel prices let me make this clear: we’ve cut fuel duty and we will keep it frozen.’
This follows on from his confirmation in the 2013 Autumn Statement that fuel duty would be frozen for the rest of this Parliament.
The Government added that action on fuel duty since 2011 will save a typical motorist £675 by the end of 2015-16.
As announced on FleetPoint, the DfT said that it will start trialling a new fuel comparison sign at five service stations on the M5 between Bristol and Exeter, with a view to introducing the signs by the end of 2015.
The Government also announced that the price-based trigger point for changes to both the supplementary charge and fuel duty, set by the Fair Fuel Stabiliser in 2011, will be abolished.
Ultra low emission vehicles
A £10m investment will be made available between 2017-18 and 2019-20 to increase the number of ultra-low emission vehicles operating in London, ahead of tentative plans to introduce an Ultra-Low Emission Zone by 2025.
Funding totalling £85m will support the roll-out of ultra-low emission taxis, buses and cities, while up to £50m will be invested to support innovation in manufacturing ultra-low emission vehicles in the UK.
In addition, the Government will provide up to £4m to extend the Clean Vehicle Technology fund in 2014-15, which funds road vehicle modification by local authorities in order to reduce air pollution.
An extra £9m is being provided by the government to increase the prize fund for driverless car testbeds – enabling trials in Bristol, London, Milton Keynes and Coventry from next year.
Road Investment Strategy
As revealed on FleetPoint earlier this week, the Government is committing £15bn between 2015-16 and 2020-21 to continue the transformation of the Strategic Road Network.
Announced by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, the move will see the Government investing the money in over 100 new road schemes.
Fleet responce to the statement has been overwhelmingly positive. Simon Oliphant, Chief Executive of Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, said: “The investment into Britain’s transport infrastructure will be welcomed by the UK today and in years to come. If the Government is to succeed in building a ‘Northern powerhouse’ and balancing power, they rightly need to invest in a network that supports this and continued growth. Road and rail are fundamental elements for the mobilisation of business and form key parts of the attraction for investment in the UK from overseas.”
David Bizley, chief engineer at the RAC, said: “The negative impact of fuel duty on economic growth is now acknowledged by the Treasury. With fuel duty already frozen until May 2015, we had feared an early return to the fuel duty escalator system – a deeply unpopular practice which led to a series of fuel duty hikes – but, for now, it appears that is not going to be the case. While we are currently enjoying low pump prices as a result of the lower world oil price this may change quickly, and it will be reassuring to fleet managers that the taxation scheme is not about to change.”