Monday, 8 June 2015

New government greeted by industry investment plea . . .


New government greeted by industry investment plea

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Trade associations have responded to the election of a majority Conservative government with renewed calls for increased investment in and reduced taxes for the road haulage industry.

The election, which led to the all-but decimation of the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition and a widely unexpected increase in seat numbers for the Conservatives, was followed by a return to post of the incumbent transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin.

It is a result likely to please many movers and shakers within the industry, judging by the results of a Road Haulage Association (RHA) survey at the recent CV Show – which found that most respondents felt the Conservatives would best serve the industry’s interests.

Following the results of the election, the RHA said it was “delighted that the next administration will be a majority government”, since this would allow “clearer and closer relationships with ministers and officials” to be forged.

“In December 2014 George Osborne recognised the acute nature of the driver shortage and confirmed his understanding of the problem during an election campaign visit to an RHA member,” said Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive.

“Without the targeted funding that is so desperately needed to alleviate this major issue, the future of the UK haulage industry will be seriously compromised and the subsequent effects on the economy unthinkable.

“We now demand that the new government puts its money where its mouth is and puts the issue at the top of its priority list.”

Burnett added that the new government must also recognise the industry’s role as: “an essential enabler of growth and the job creation needed to eliminate the public spending deficit.

“It must support the industry, and therefore the UK economy, with appropriate tax policies, road investment and regulation.”

In particular, he argued that fuel duty must not be increased in this parliament.

“It is a heavy tax on business, pushes up the price of everything we buy, undermines competitiveness and holds back our haulage industry,” he said.

He added that the current investment plan for England’s roads: “is the minimum level needed to sustain the economy.”

Meanwhile, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) called on David Cameron to give logistics “the attention it deserves”, given the “key role” logistics had to play in the continued economic recovery.

Karen Dee, FTA policy director, said the new government’s policies: “must ensure the industry can be as efficient and effective as possible in support of businesses and consumers in the UK… Our objective is to ensure that the UK has a safe, efficient and sustainable supply chain, and we sincerely hope that the new government will support us in these goals.”

Reiterating its call for a fuel duty cut, for skills shortages to be addressed and for the government to ensure infrastructure networks would meet industry needs, FTA said it would be writing to ministers to request discussions surrounding these issues, and its wider ambitions for the logistics industry.

Meanwhile, Kevin Buchanan, group managing director at palletised freight network Pall-Ex, said the Conservative win had resulted “renewed confidence in the market.”

“The focus of economic recovery can now continue, but we do need greater investment in transport infrastructure to keep Britain moving,” he said.

“The HGV levy, introduced in 2014, has been a great success, raising more than £17 million from foreign lorries to invest back into our road networks… It has resulted in charges imposed on over 112,000 vehicles from 76 countries – enough to repair 320,000 potholes across the UK.”

But Buchanan said there was still work to do, and called for a more robust stance from the government on European drivers.

“Under the current system, drivers from across the continent use our roads for free, do not pay tax, and do not always buy fuel,” he said. “Taking a tougher, fairer stance on this should lead to lower fuel duty costs.”

He continued: “Though we anticipate that HS2 will be high on the agenda for the Tory government, the reality is our existing road networks should be a priority too.

“We’d like to see a balanced transport strategy that takes into account all types of infrastructure, rather than an inclination to invest all efforts into one centralised mode of transport.

“With the confirmation that Patrick McLoughlin will remain transport secretary, that means he is likely to be one of the most long-serving people in that position. What we need is someone who is unafraid to tackle tough issues like these to ensure infrastructure that is fit for purpose across the UK.”

Fuel card solutions provider Fuel Card Services warned fleet managers not to “expect too much” from the new government, meanwhile – adding that: “they should not anticipate any reduction in either fuel duty or road tax.”

Group marketing manager, Steve Clarke, said: “David Cameron’s outright majority in the Commons means relatively stable government for at least the first couple of years, but the EU referendum is going to be a major distraction from everyday business.

“Meanwhile, the deficit still has to be tackled and George Osborne will have little room for manoeuvre, especially given all the pre-poll tax and spending commitments. Much as the economy would certainly benefit from financial help for commercial road users, expecting anything significant would represent unrealistic optimism.”

“Fleets of all sizes and types can expect tough times for the foreseeable future,” Clarke concluded, “so we all have to hope that the promised light at the end of the tunnel does not turn out to be an oncoming train.”

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