Dozens of MP Jason McCartney’s constituents have signed an open letter in which they explain why they disagree with his recent lobbying on fuel duty. Jason McCartney, who is chair of the All Party Fair Fuel Group has been urging the Chancellor, George Osborne, not to raise fuel duty in this week’s budget.
Fuel duty has been frozen since 2011. In the letter the Colne Valley residents tell Jason McCartney that they agree with the Campaign for Better Transport which is calling for an increase in fuel duty to tackle air pollution, invest in public transport, walking and cycling and to mend roads.
The government’s own figures say that 29,000 people are dying prematurely as a result of air pollution. One thousand of these people live within West Yorkshire. Air pollution levels have been shown to be above legal levels in Huddersfield. We need increased funding of public transport and for the government to fund its Walking and Cycling strategy.
But it is also about mending roads. One in six local roads are in poor condition and the repairs backlog stands at over £12 billion. Local authorities, having to make difficult decisions as a result of funding cuts, are struggling to tackle this huge problem. Andrew Allen of the Campaign for Better Transport says, “A fuel duty rise in the Budget should not be seen as anti-motorist. Spent in the right way, it could help improve transport for us all.”
The open letter ends with two questions for Jason McCartney:
1) Would you agree that the state of our roads and the levels of air pollution in the UK are in need of urgent action by this Government?
2) If raising fuel duty is not the way to fund this action, in the context of the Government’s austerity programme, what is?
Open letter to Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley, sent to Huddersfield Examiner (15.3.16) signed by 24 constituents. (Thank you to everyone who signed the letter!)
Dear Jason McCartney,
We learned last week that you were lobbying the Chancellor not to raise fuel duty in this week’s budget.
We understand that, as Chair of the all-party Fair Fuel Group you have said “I want to make sure the Treasury thinks very carefully about the impact of fuel prices. We have had relatively low prices for a while but they could soar again within months”. There will be many who will applaud your stance. We are a group of your constituents who do not.
We share the view of the Campaign for Better Transport that fuel duty – which has been frozen since 2011- should be increased in order to fund crucial work in improving public transport, reducing air pollution, encouraging cycling and walking as well as repairing our badly-maintained roads. This is why:
The levels of air pollution in the UK– and the illnesses and deaths that result from them – are a national scandal. The Government’s own statistics suggest that 29,000 people are dying prematurely each year as a result of air pollution, much of that coming from car exhausts. This figure does not include those dying as a result of the effects of the noxious gas, nitrogen dioxide. Last April, the Yorkshire Post reported that 1000 of these people dying prematurely are from West Yorkshire and nitrogen dioxide levels in Huddersfield are above legal levels.
As you may know the Government was ordered last April by the Supreme Court to take immediate action over its obligations under European law on air pollution limits. According to the group of environmental lawyers, Client Earth, the Government’s response – in its ‘Air Quality Plan’ – has been woefully inadequate.
European rules set limits for key pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which should have been met by 2010. The plans which the Government was ordered to produce by the Supreme Court do not see the UK meeting legal targets until 2025. Meanwhile, just a few weeks ago Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health produced a report that warned that an estimated 40,000 people die each year in the UK because of air pollution.
We would like to see an increase in fuel duty used to fund action to reduce air pollution. One of these ways would be through greater investment in public transport. Many bus services across the country have been restricted as a result of austerity measures. Another would be to encourage cycling and walking. The Government has created a ‘Cycling and Walking strategy’ but it has not invested the resources needed to turn this into a meaningful strategy.
We would also like the income from an increase in fuel duty to be used to fund investment in road maintenance. One in six local roads are in poor condition and the repairs backlog stands at over £12 billion. Local authorities, having to make difficult decisions as a result of funding cuts, are struggling to tackle this huge problem. We agree with Andrew Allen of the Campaign for Better Transport who said, “A fuel duty rise in the Budget should not be seen as anti-motorist. Spent in the right way, it could help improve transport for us all.”
All these problems aren’t just causing deaths, health problems and poor environments. They are costing us money. How much is air pollution costing the NHS, funded by us? How much is damage caused by potholes costing car users? How much are levels of obesity – caused in part by the public being reluctant to walk or cycle- costing the UK in health care and days off work?
We said at the opening of this letter, many will applaud your stance. But we would like to ask you two questions:
- Would you agree that the state of our roads and the levels of air pollution in the UK are in need of urgent action by this Government?
- If raising fuel duty is not the way to fund this action, in the context of the Government’s austerity programme, what is?
Please can you contact us to let us know your answers?