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Automotive

Autumn statement – what it means for car owners


Britain’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond released his first – and indeed last – Autumn Statement on 24th November. Here we take a look at the key points that could affect motorists in the UK.

Fuel Duty

Those of us who were traversing Britain’s highways back in 2000 will find it difficult to forget the fuel protests – and subsequent shortages – that spread across the nation in September of that year. Farmers and lorry drivers across the country, enraged by yet another proposed hike on fuel duty, took to their vehicles in order to let the Government know that the last straw had been drawn. With squadrons of lorries and tractors moving in to blockade major fuel depots, tankers were unable to make their deliveries and, within a few days, many petrol stations were running out of fuel completely. This led to a flurry of panic buying and general chaos across the UK.

It’s a little reassuring, then, than Phillip Hammond doesn’t appear to have forgotten those scenes either. Petrolprices.com have reported that fuel duty is to be frozen, as has been the case for the last seven years. Hammond has stated that this will save the average car driver £130 a year in real terms, although this seems a little ambitious. Of course, the true price we pay at the pumps will continue to be governed by the cost of oil (which has reportedly risen by 60% since January); however, this concession will at least appease those who drive for a living.

Insurance

The news isn’t quite as good for those of us who need to insure a vehicle while being unfortunate enough to be young, employed in a risky profession, or devoid of no claims bonus. Despite several increases in recent years, according to motoringassist.com the Chancellor has announced that insurance premium tax is again to rise from 10% to 12%- a hike that will, of course, be passed on to the consumer by the jacking up of premiums that are already sky high for many drivers. Considering that the cost of insurance has risen by 16.8% this year (http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/car-insurance-premiums-rise-163-year-says-aa), this news is unlikely to be welcomed by any of the UK’s road users.

However, a degree of mitigation is offered by the announcement of plans to crack down on expensive whiplash claims. There’s no doubt that genuine neck injuries can be sustained as a result of a car accident, and that these can often cause pain and discomfort for many years after the event; however, today’s ‘compensation culture’ has meant that, in some circles, it’s become almost de rigeur to lodge a spurious personal injury claim in the hope of trousering an extra quid or two. This results in increased claim costs and, ultimately, these will be handed down to us motorists in the form of soaring premiums. With this in mind, and as long as genuine cases are not overlooked and savings are reflected in 2017’s premiums, the Government’s intent to crack down on this should be considered a positive development.

Investment in roads and future mobility

The Chancellor has announced that a total of £1.3 billion will be used to improve and repair roads, as well as tackling pinch points on key motorways and A roads. Additionally, a new £27 million road project linking Milton Keynes with Oxford and Cambridge has been approved. It’s clear that Hammond intends to tackle the ever more problematic issue of traffic congestion, which the Treasury reports is costing the UK economy £13 billion a year.

While this promise of investment is a welcome move from the Government, some motorists will remain skeptical until there’s conclusive proof that these projects will actually happen. Autocar magazine reports that many of the schemes outlined in a 2014 £15bn programme of improvement are still awaiting implementation two years later.

The Chancellor has pledged a further £390m towards the development of low-emission and autonomous cars, including tax breaks for the installation of electric vehicle charging points. Hammond stated that this will allow the UK car industry to continue “building our competitive advantage in low-emission vehicles and development of connected, autonomous vehicles”. He also announced that £1bn will be invested in digital architecture, alongside an overall increase in investment for science and technology, which is likely to have a positive effect on the development of new automotive technologies in the UK.

Salary Sacrifice

One more cutback that will affect many drivers is the decision to abolish ‘salary sacrifice’ tax perks on a range of employee benefits such as health screening checks, company cars and mobile contracts from April 5th. This will result in an unwelcome increase in costs for many company car drivers, although it’s worth noting that exemptions will be kept in place for ultra low emissions vehicles and Cycle to Work schemes until April 2021.