Wales’s First Minister, Mark Drakeford has confirmed the Welsh Government will be pressing on the UK Government to extend the Rural Fuel Duty Relief Scheme to Wales to better support Powys households.
Responding to a question in the Senedd from Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru’s Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales, Mr Drakeford confirmed that the extension of the Fuel Duty Relief Scheme, alongside other possible cost of living mitigation measures, would be raised by the Welsh Government in a meeting with Westminster counterparts tomorrow (28 June).
Currently the Rural Fuel Duty Relief, which allows retailers to claim duty relief on unleaded petrol and diesel, covers 17 areas of England and Scotland, including parts of the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Northumberland, Cumbria, Devon and North Yorkshire, however no areas of Wales are currently included in the scheme.
Speaking in the Senedd, Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell outlined that Wales had the highest proportion of people travelling to work by car (80 per cent) in the whole UK, with workers from rural counties such as Powys and Gwynedd on average travelling over 20km to work – around 25 per cent higher than the Welsh average.
Recent weeks have seen petrol and diesel prices continue to spiral as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies – with fuel prices often higher in rural areas. On 27 June RAC’s average fuel price check saw petrol and diesel hitting 191.10 and 198.96 pen per litre, respectively - with the continued increase placing many carers, farmers, and small businesses under increased financial strain.
Mr Campbell’s calls for the reconfiguring of the scheme to include rural communities in Wales follows increased pressure at Westminster from Plaid Cymru’s Ben Lake, Member of Parliament for Ceredigion, who, following a Parliamentary question on the reform of the scheme, recently met with UK Government Ministers to discuss the prospect further.
Questioning the First Minister today (Tuesday 28 June), Mr Campbell, called on the Welsh Government to step-up efforts to secure the extension of the scheme to Wales, noting:
“When travelling from Carmarthenshire to Cardiff this morning, it was clear that the price of petrol and diesel was 5p or 6p per litre more in the west as compared to here in the capital city.
People in Wales, some 80 per cent of them, use a car to travel to work. In rural areas such as those that I represent, people on average travel some 25 per cent further for work, and these spiraling costs therefore have a huge impact— particularly on people such as carers, farmers and small businesses.”
Unlike many rural parts of England and Scotland who already benefit from the rural fuel duty relief scheme, the scheme doesn’t currently exist in Wales. So, what pressure are you as a Government placing on Westminster in order for this scheme to be introduced here in Wales to support rural communities?”
In response, First Minister, Mark Drakeford, confirmed he had previously pushed for Wales to be included in the scheme during its creation in 2015, and went on to comment:
“Communities in England and communities in Scotland can use the rural fuel duty relief scheme, but nobody in Wales can use that same system.
So, I can tell the Member, tomorrow, when we have the opportunity to raise those points and other points, of course, we will raise the issue with regard to that rural fuel duty relief scheme, once again with Ministers at Westminster, and to ask them, if people in Devon, for example, can benefit from the scheme, why can't people in Dyfed or Powys, when the situation is almost the same?”
Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, Plaid Cymru group leader on Powys County Council added:
"I welcome the First Minister's commitment to pursue this matter further with the UK Government. It remains ridiculous that rural households in Powys are unable to benefit from this scheme, whilst similar rural areas in Scotland and England are eligible. As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, it's vital the Tories in Westminster review this Scheme with urgency."