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The price of petrol and diesel has surged to a six-month high, with the self-employed urging the government to steer clear of a fuel duty hike.

The latest weekly road fuel prices show that the average cost per litre of petrol and diesel has risen to £1.28 and £1.35 respectively. Both figures are at their highest since November 2018.

The development follows speculation that the Chancellor is considering a rise in fuel duty. Philip Hammond told MPs last month that “the benefits to hauliers and motorists of freezing fuel duty must be balanced against the costs of the exchequer… we continue to keep it under review.”

Although it is small businesses urging the government against a price rise, this will of course have a negative impact on all self-employed and permanent workers who need to travel in order to work.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, commented,“Small business owners are committed to embracing the green agenda and reducing their impact on the environment. But government must clearly set out how and when it expects small firms to make the transition to greener alternatives, and what it will do to support them.

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“Where a business owner is paying £1.28 for a litre of petrol, more than 80p of that is already fuel duty and VAT: further tax increases will not help to achieve positive change while small firms remain so woefully short of alternatives. Electric vehicles are costly and our electric-charging infrastructure is often found wanting.

“Small businesses in every community depend on road travel to mobilise products, suppliers, staff and indeed customers. This is especially true in rural and harder-to-reach areas where car use is often essential. Another fuel duty hike would hugely damage a small business community recently hit by business rates hikes, higher employment costs and new HMRC reporting requirements.”

He added, “Smarter incentives and investment are the way forward, not more levies. Scrappage schemes, greater availability of electric car-charging points and effective investment in public transport are all key to helping the nine in ten small businesses that rely on older vehicles to embrace alternatives.

“Many small business owners bought diesel cars in good faith years ago following encouragement to do so by politicians. In cities like London, they’re now suffering from a substantial ultra-low emission charge that not only disproportionately impacts them, but was also been introduced earlier than promised.

“Against a backdrop of unprecedented political uncertainty, the Government’s commitment to extending the fuel duty freeze at the last Budget was hugely welcomed by small firms. The Treasury would do well to remember that that uncertainty is still with us.”

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