Fuel prices

This week I received an e-mail from a Storrington resident describing how the rocketing cost of road fuel is making it ever harder for his small business.  He told me of his "total dismay" that he is now spending over £1,000 a month on petrol.

On Tuesday, petrol hit £5 a gallon for the first time.  The highest cost of a litre of unleaded petrol in the Storrington area is now 112.9p, and the lowest is not much lower at 109.9p.

There has been around a seven-fold increase in the cost of fuel since the mid-1970s, when we were able to buy fuel for 16p a litre.  And the rise could well continue.

This week the President of OPEC, the organisation representing oil producing nations, warned that the price of a barrel of oil could reach $200.  To put this in context, the price is currently around $113.  So it could rise by 77 per cent.

In fact, we're all facing a triple whammy - more expensive petrol, higher domestic fuel bills and increased food prices.

Just when the motorist is being hit, the Government is adding to the burden by planning to increase fuel duty.  Ministers have deferred a 2p rise which was due in April to October.  But if they want to avoid the increase then, they'll have to find £500-600 million to pay for it.

The problem is that they're also going to have to fund their climbdown over the 10p tax rate.  And having ramped up the highest budget deficit in Western Europe, and with falling growth, the Government's room for manoeuvre to help hard-pressed taxpayers will be extremely limited.

As the old adage goes, the time to mend your roof is when the sun is shining.  Unfortunately, Gordon Brown took our money and blew it - and now the rain is pouring in.

Michelle Taylor