Chancellor Rishi Sunak

The PRA has reacted furiously to reports in The Times that the chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering introducing road pricing, where motorists pay for each mile that they travel.

He is reported to be looking for new ways to generate income from motorists because of the government’s policies to drive down use of petrol and diesel.

Last year fuel duty generated £28bn in income for the exchequer with VAT adding another £6bn so policies to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans would leave a sizeable black hole in his finances.

Income this year has also been hit badly because of the fall in fuel sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “We are deeply concerned about the government’s potential road pricing proposals. It is unfathomable that the government would introduce a measure that would only succeed in discriminating against the poorest in society.

“Public transport infrastructure in rural communities is near non-existent, with millions solely relying on their private vehicles to travel. If the regressive road pricing ‘poll-tax like’ regime came into force, those living in rural areas on low incomes would be hit the hardest as it could become unaffordable to run a car.

“This method of taxation has already been rejected by the British public in 2007 when proposed by the Labour government, so it is startling to see that these proposals are even being considered.

“There has been a clear lack of consideration to the inflationary hit to goods and services. 100% of fresh food is moved by road, along with over 80% of all other goods. It will be the consumer that has to bear the brunt of any increased transport costs.”

The PRA proposes that cyclists and other road users should also be included in any pay-by-the-mile approach and they pay the same rate as petrol and diesel vehicles, as a tiered pricing system would be discriminatory.