The Budget of Mr Butler will have been received by motorists with mixed feelings. We are grateful to him for introducing a fairer system of car taxation, namely £12 10s per year for all cars, commencing from January 1953. Owners of all pre-1947 cars of over 10 rated hp will fling their caps into the air and rejoice generally. Those with 10-hp carriages are unaffected, but the many users of 8 and 9-hp cars and those happy few with diminutive Peugeots and the older Jowetts who paid only £8 15s a year, all pay more, in company with those clever or affluent folk running recently-built automobiles. Mercifully, people driven to two or three wheels by the high cost of living and of low-octane petrol go untroubled.
Certainly the £12 10s flat-rate tax will assist the vintage movement even if it secures not more than a few hundred votes for the politicions. A 3-litre Bentley owner will pay £7 10s less next year, and a 30/98 Vauxhall man £17 10s less, for example.
The reduction in entertainment tax should assist motor-racing. But the further savage increase in the Petrol tax is unjust and will have nasty repercussions for most of the population, not merely for motorists. The average fuel consumption of private cars in this country is probably about 20 mpg, certainly amongst users of high performance cars. Assuming an average, everyday speed of 30 mph, one hour’s motoring uses 11/2 gallons, equal to 6s 41/2p, in the same time a man might quaff three pints of beer or smoke three cigarettes, but not only does this cost him nothing like 6s 41/2, but it costs him no more under the Butler Budget than with the previous Budget. If you want to angry, work out the actual diferences ! Moreover, annual licences to the value of £12 15s are not requiered of each smoker or drinker. Note too, how the price of petrol rose in a matter of hours, whereas benefits will take several months to come into effect. So it is too clearly obvious that yet again the Motorist has been the major scapegoat who must pay for the nation’s past follies and present responsibilities. This is a state of affairs which has gone on for too long and which each of us should bring very clearly to the attention of our MPs. The tax increase of 71/2d a gallon on petrol may not sound too dreadful, so accustomed have the British become to thrusting their hands deeply into pockets and wallets. But, in sober fact, 5,000 miles’ motoring (equal to a mere 100 miles each weekend, discounting Christmas and one other in the garage for servicing) now costs £26 11s 3d for petrol alone, assuming the most insignificant little car doing a genuine all-the-year-round 40 mpg. (We are assuming that weekday motoring is charged to employer or business.) Allow only 200 miles per weekend (which the enthusiast can easily exceed, at 20mpg, and the cost of petrol rises to £106 5s per annum –over £2 a week, most of which is tax.
For this point of view emphesis would at first seem to be on small-engined cars, but it is significant that how much the new flat-rate tax humours the retention of large-engined cars by those who can afford a reasonable expenditure on motoring, particularly up to an annual mileage of around 10,000.
For example, the 30-hp car saves £25 a year in tax, equivalent to being given over 117 “free” gallons of petrol at the latest price of 4s 3d a gallon. On the other hand, a 12-hp car saves only 50s, equal to approximately 11 “free” gallons. Expressed another way, a 12-hp car doing 28 mpg cost £47 11s per 5,000 miles for tax and petrol prior to Butler’s Budget but now goes up to £50 6s, whereas over this distance a 30-hp car giving 18 mpg formerly cost £88 9s, which now comes down to £71 11s. Over 10,000 miles the new figures become £88 2s for a 12-hp, £130 12s for a 30-hp car, respectively, an inerease of £8 and a decrease of £8 16p. Over 20,000 miles the 12-hp costs £163 15s, the 30-hp £248 17s, respectively, an increase of £17 9s and £30 17s. Users of large cars are being given a long overdue “bonus.”
On the other hand, increased petrol costs will maintain a bias towards small engined cars and although if people who already run big cars will have little reason to dispose of them, it is unlikely that a saving of less than over 10,000 miles will be sufficient to promote widespread sales of large used-cars, in other words, even at the most “favourable” mileage, the difference in running costs between small and large cars remains appreciable and sufficient to keep static the hp/sales groups. The general tendency will be for fewer people to motor fewer miles in smaller cars. In any case, remember that the sooner buyers refuse to pay silly prices for old cars the sooner will vendors cease to request them.
As one of the biggest tax-payers it is to be hoped that we motorists will be accorded the privileges due to us and that if the police have already been instructed to treat us with respect, ie to cease to charge us for obstructing deserted side roads or for failing to keep our number plates free from mud on wet days etc !
It remains only to order a set of economy jets for the Editorial Plus Four (which should reduce the Morgans thirst from 22 to 32 or more mpg) and to buy the music of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in Mr. Butler’s honour, remembering that he might have raised the car-tax to £25 per annum and the price of petrol to half-a-sovereign a gallon !