This week’s 2017 UK budget delivered very little news to grab the headlines, especially for motorists. As we heard on the BBC News straight after the budget, those used to seeing previous Chancellor George Osborne “pull rabbits out of hats” at these events saw “no rabbits” from Philip Hammond on this occasion.
So what news can we report for UK motorists?
Perhaps the biggest news was the distinct lack of news. We were surprised not to see anything announced that would directly affect drivers, particularly diesel drivers. However, there was no fuel duty increase, no official news of a scrappage scheme, and no changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) beyond those already announced (with the exception of the unsurprising fact that this tax on existing cars will rise with inflation). Anyone interested in the VED changes that take effect from April will find further information in this previous article.
It’s not at all cynical to assume that the government is storing up some of the above changes for the autumn, when the UK will have its first full Autumn Budget, rather than an Autumn Statement, the last of which took place in 2016. It still seems likely that diesel drivers will be hit in some way when this takes place.
A hint that the government hasn’t forgotten about the need to tackle diesel use is tucked away in the detail of the written budget, where it states that the government will be investigating the use of “red diesel” in the coming months. This far cheaper diesel is identical but dyed red, and used by some vehicles working in construction and agricultural industries. This pending investigation suggests there’s a clampdown on the use of this cheaper fuel on the way, especially where these vehicles are used in urban areas.
Whatever happens, the country’s dreadful performance against pollution targets means that something will have to be done soon, so the silence on this issue in the budget should probably be treated more as a reprieve than as a case of “no news is good news.”
Spending on the UK’s struggling road network was announced in the budget, confirming some promises made in last year’s Autumn Statement. According to The BBC, this includes a commitment to £90 Million of spending for the north, £230 Million for the Midlands, and £690 Million to be doled out by local councils to “tackle urban congestion.” Totalling just over £1 Billion, these commitments seem something of a drop in the ocean given the traffic levels our roads have to deal with on a daily basis.
The one big thing that could change everything is the impact of the impending declaration of Article 50 and the commencement of Britain’s departure from the EU. While some pundits feel that this has been factored into financial forecasts, history has shown that it’s almost impossible to predict how the markets (and the general financial health of the country) will be impacted by political events. However much anyone tries to predict what may happen in the next six months, the only certainty in the current climate is uncertainty.
The next budget in the autumn will take place against a backdrop of major transition. That, coupled with the fact that this budget has been far from revolutionary, truly seems to indicate that the next one will be a big one.
Labour has described this budget as one of “utter complacency.” Do you agree? Share your views in the comments below.
IMAGE CREDIT: Pixabay (Public Domain).