A considerable proportion of the British electorate are vehicle owners, to whom Budget Day is a time for hope or despair. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Major, delivered his crucial Budget speech very eloquently; but not eloquently enough for voters in the recent mid-Staffordshire by-election. MOTOR SPORT is not a political platform, so we need only consider the effects of his Budget on motorists. On the whole, it wasn’t a bad one from that aspect. It can in fact be said that Major has done us only a minor disservice.
The petrol tax has been increased but VED (your tax disc) remains unchanged, including presumably the annual £40 concession on older vehicles, which benefits those who make a hobby of them, even if they never got the once-promised “weekend” licences craved by rallyists. The three wheeler tax that lines up with the fee for over-250cc motorcycles apparantly also remains, which must be commended, even if it does mean more Robins roaming about our roads…
The differential between unleaded and leaded fuel is about 13p to 15p at the pump, depending on whose calculations you accept, which should please those “greens” with the mistaken notion that motor vehicles are the major cause of atmospheric pollution. It is sad, nevertheless, that the immediate Budget increase (of 11p per gallon of leaded 4 star) in fuel tax is nearly as heavy on Derv as on unleaded petrol, for diesel oil contaminates less than the latter and Citroën and Peugeot have just introduced new models that prove just how sophisticated c.i cars have become. But, underlining the increasing motor industry overlap, both are the same beneath the bonnet.
It was left to the petrol companies to further increase our motoring costs, by raising petrol prices so that a gallon of top grade now costs some £2.00.
The Budget has altered the complicated variety of commercial vehicle taxes, in doing which there has been a tax upgrade for about 140,000 sizes of trucks/vans but some 150,000 of them will pay less duty; and we all know that living costs rise for everyone with any increase in the cost of goods transportation. It may not be generally realised what very high rates of tax are imposed on the bigger trucks and trailers. Much as they may be criticised for causing road congestion, such vehicles were for years far ahead, in engineering terms, of private cars, pioneering such innovations as multi-speed gearboxes, turbocharging, anti-lock brakes, servo controls, multiwheel drive, etc. So the “truckers”, covering vast annual mileages, so often have every reason to be proud of their skills and their vehicles.
There was no threat in the Budget of Capital Gains Tax being imposed on classic and collectors’ cars, which must have caused a sigh of relief in certain quarters as loud as that made by a deflating tractor tyre…! On the whole, then, not a severe Budget from the road users point of view, if scarcely a happy one for the electorate as a whole. The media seems to take a delight in attacking the lady in blue when she is down (temporarily perhaps), un-British as this is. In an increasingly democratic age, those political parties seeking victory in the next General Election would do well to bear in mind that, along with inflation and the Poll Tax, looking after the well-being of vehicle users counts for a good deal — for there are quite a number of us out there!
One disservice the Chancellor did to many car drivers, and indirectly to the British Motor Industry which relies for much of its profit on the orders it receives from fleet buyers, was putting a 20% increase on company car tax so soon after it was doubled in 1988 and increased by a further 33% by Nigel Lawson, while failing to raise the ridiculously low earnings’ threshold of £8,500 a year. On which slightly sour note, let us try to forget the Budget and turn to the 1990 motor racing season, which may be just as political but is rather more stimulating. WB