This morning the media has – rightly – hailed the good news that the rise in fuel duty planned for 1 September has been abandoned.
But what exactly was the size of the rise due to have been?
Much of the media has gone for a 3p rise, and indeed were doing so well ahead of yesterday’s statement. Yet in the Budget 2013 document released yesterday by the Treasury, the Chancellor said the rise foregone was in fact 1.89p (P53) to which VAT would have been added:
“Budget 2013 announces that the 1.89 pence per litre fuel duty increase that was planned for 1 September 2013 will be cancelled. This means that fuel duty will have been frozen for nearly three and half years, the longest duty freeze for over 20 years.”
In the grand scheme of things there isn’t much – in absolute rather than percentage terms – between the two, but where might the confusion have come about?
The previous increase was due on 1January 2013 and this was abandoned completely. The amount of this increase was set to be 3.02p – 3p to you and me.
The next cost of living increase was due for 1 April this year but had already been delayed to 1 September. It was this planned increase that the Chancellor shelved completely yesterday. Prior to yesterday no figure had been set for the level of the hike. All that had been said was that the amount would be confirmed in Budget 2013. And it was, but only so it could then be announced that it was never going to be implemented.
According to the Fair Fuel Stabiliser that the Chancellor introduced in Budget 2012 future annual rises in the level of fuel duty would be in line with inflation so long as the price of a barrel of crude oil was above £45 a barrel – it is currently much higher than that. If the price of oil should fall below £45 over a sustained period then the rise in the rate of fuel duty would be inflation plus 1p per litre.
So where does the 1.89p quoted yesterday derive from? Earlier this month we heard that the cost of living as measured by RPI (and this was the benchmark figure outlined in the original FFS formula) was about 3.3%. If you take 3.3% of the current rate of duty of 57.95p per litre you end up with 1.85p; markedly close to the figure of 1.89p mentioned in the Budget yesterday.
Of course this is all academic now because the rise did not go ahead, but while yesterday was undeniably a good day for drivers, it was not quite as good as many of us might have thought.