Theresa May facing backlash over plan to end fuel duty freeze to fund NHS boost
Theresa May is facing a fresh Tory backlash after it was revealed she is ready to end the Government’s eight-year long fuel duty freeze to help pay a massive rise in NHS spending.
Government sources said linking fuel duty rates to inflation would raise an extra £800m for the Treasury next year, and billions thereafter.
The move comes as the Treasury tries to find the cash for the planned £20bn of extra investment for the health service over the next four years.
Senior Government sources told the Guardian that the bid to scrap the freeze was “under serious consideration” as it would ease pressure on the public finances.
Ministers are also thought to be considering lifting the freeze on alcohol duty announced in last autumn’s budget – clawing back more than £200m a year for the Treasury.
Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “If they don’t [lift the freeze] the deficit hole will get even bigger.
“The challenge of finding the money for the NHS, keeping the public finances on the track the chancellor might want, would all be harder if you continued freezing it.”
But former minister Rob Halfon - a long-standing campaigner against fuel duty hikes - condemned the plan.
Mr Halfon told PoliticsHome: "An end to the fuel duty freeze would hit hard-working white van men and women in the country at a time when petrol has increased by 13p and diesel by 15p over the past year, with increased tax receipts for the Treasury. Rather than tax hard-working people, why not cut overseas aid instead to use that money for our NHS?"
Howard Cox from FairFuel UK said such the move would be "suicidal" for the Government.
Damian McBride, who worked as an adviser to Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor, said the move would not raise any new money.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “As the Prime Minister and chancellor have made clear, taxpayers will have to contribute a bit more, in a fair and balanced way, to support the NHS we all use. We will listen to views about how we do this and will set out plans at future fiscal events.”