Politicians have often called Fuel Duty a green tax when they are trying to sell hikes but, when pressed, the Treasury tends to admit it is just another way of raising revenue. The motoring taxes certainly raise a lot of money. £31.5 billion in 2009 and rising. Outside the dense public transport networks, enabling a quick door to door journey, that are only economical in the cities, people need to drive. They need to drive to get to work, take the kids to school and access services and that makes them a captive market that politicians can easily rinse.
Motoring taxes are wildly excessive. Our research today shows that you can't justify them looking at the cost of building and maintaining the roads and the contribution that road transport emissions are expected to make to climate change. Excessive motoring taxes are now £293 per person, per year. And people in rural areas like Maldon are hit hardest, we estimate they are paying £566 over the odds each year. Some campaigners try to justify that by coming up with all sorts of evils – from accidents to noise – that motorists should apparently pay for on top of regulation, in a way no one else does. But it doesn't stand up to much scrutiny.
Drivers get a dismal deal when it comes to public spending too. It is accepted as a matter of course that road projects which offer a far better cost to benefit ratio will be cancelled while rail projects go ahead – even leaving aside the question of whether we're funding the right rail projects, and there is every sign that inequity is only going to get worse. There is no sign of the ambitious Conservative strategy for the roads now that built the M25 back in 1986.
But ignoring the motorist will come back and bite politicians. The strength of feeling that has propelled Robert Halfon MP's petition over 100,000 – calling for rises in Fuel Duty to be scrapped – shows that. Lots of people in the marginal suburbs and small towns that decide elections want a better deal.