It’s a borderline judgment whether to pay any attention to today’s budget. The general election will almost certainly be called on Tuesday 6 April, so there’s a good chance this budget will never be enacted.
Indeed, should the Conservatives win on 6 May, there’ll be a new, much wider ranging ‘emergency’ budget in the summer.
That said, the motorist didn’t get too much of a kicking today, but faces bigger taxes in the future. The feared 3p rise in fuel duty will now be phased in ‘with an increase of one pence per litre on 1 April 2010, one pence per litre on 1 October 2010, then 0.76 pence per litre on 1 January 2011’.
However, Alistair Darling also says that he intends to increase fuel duty by one pence per litre ‘in real terms’ every 1 April from 2011 to 2014. The April Fool in that statement is ‘real terms’.
That really means a one pence increase on top of inflation. Which, if it happened today, would be more like a 3 pence hike.
With the newspapers full of pothole stories, it was good local politics to announce a £100m fund for filling them in. Remember that when Labour canvassers start knocking on doors next month, householders (me included) are likely to say ‘look at the state of these roads’. Whether £100m will go very far remains to be seen.
The Government’s enthusiasm for hard-shoulder running schemes have survived cuts and Darling announced £280m to spur the scheme onwards. However, as Autocar as discussed before, these schemes are double-edged.
Such is the technological overkill that comes with hard shoulder running, it will be very easy to introduce permanently lower motorway speeds and long-distance speed monitoring.
It was easy to miss the potential significance of the announcement of a £2bn ‘Green bank’ to fund renewable energy and green transport. Selling off the Channel Tunnel link and Dartford Crossing will fund £1bn of this.
Drivers who have been stuck on the Dartford Crossing over the years might well be enraged by this news. Not only did the government break an agreement to drop the tolls once the two crossings had been paid for (thought to be April 2002), but selling it off is likely to result in significant hikes in the toll charges.
My personal feeling is that this budget will never make it onto the statute book. But we have no way of knowing whether the potential new Prime Minister and Chancellor – both of whom commute to Parliament on their bicycles – will hit the motorist even harder as they put in place a five year plan to reduce the country’s colossal overdraft.