As most people expected, there were no major changes for the motorist in George Osborne’s final Budget of this parliament. The fall in fuel prices, which some feared might embolden the Chancellor to raise taxes at the pumps, didn’t, as it turned out, prevent him from once again freezing prices.
It may be worth noting, however, that despite his boasting of the length of time he has refrained from raising duty on fuel, Mr Osborne has never actually scrapped the fuel duty escalator brought in by the last Labour government; he has merely chosen to suspend it each time. And the fall in the global price of oil has also led him to make some tax concessions to the North Sea oil producers – though again, the cut in Petroleum Revenue Tax is merely a reversal of a raise which he himself introduced.
There were a couple of announcements specifically affecting drivers, however. The first was the government’s intention of investing £100 million into the research and development of driverless technology – not, perhaps, a huge sum in the grand scheme of things, but further evidence that politicians are taking seriously the impact that intelligent mobility is likely to have.
The Budget’s emphasis on the internet of things might also have a more indirect effect on technologies connected with the automotive industry.
The other substantive announcement was that the rate of company car tax on Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles will increase more slowly than previously planned.
It’s worth noting, however, that that change will not come into effect until 2019-20, and that the tax on other vehicles will go up by an additional three percentage points.
That’s assuming, of course, that Mr Osborne’s party is still in government at that point. But then one would have to make that assumption for any of the plans announced in today’s speech – and with only 50 days to go until the General Election, that still looks far from certain.