More tax increases that will hit the poorest in the county to fill up the coffers of a bankrupt state purse.
Fuel prices in Norfolk could hit record highs this year, with a raft of tax increases set to send pump prices soaring.
Yesterday prices crept towards 116p a litre for both unleaded and diesel at some garages in the west of the county. Two days earlier, prices were averaging below 110p a litre.
Queues formed at forecourts in King’s Lynn and Fakenham, as drivers topped up for a final time before the VAT rate on petrol went back up to 17.5pc from 15pc.
But the Petrol Retailers Association warned there was worse to come, predicting prices could overtake the record of 120p a litre reached briefly in July 2008 by the end of this year with a further tax rise in April and some forecasters predicting higher and additional rates on taxation later in the year.
Sally Smith, Norfolk spokeswoman for the Country Land and Business Association, said: “It’s the old double whammy for anyone living in a rural area.
“It’s going to hit the whole rural economy, everything from taking beet to the sugar factory to school buses. It’s a pretty miserable start to the great new decade.”
Tim Bonner, from the Countryside Alliance, said: “You have to drive to access more and more services with the centralisation of things like healthcare, so we say to the government have you considered the impact this is going to have on rural communities.
“Since 1998 or 1999, we’ve had a government which said we’re going to have rural proofing and consider the affect of our policies on rural areas – here’s another classic example of their not doing that.
“There are other ways and means of raising tax income, it’s unfair that rural areas have to bear this additional burden.”
On the eve of the VAT increase, the 6000-strong PRA said Britain’s 33m drivers were “an easy target” for a government desperate for cash to plug a record deficit.
Fuel duty is set to rise by at least a 1p a litre in April, while tax subsidies for biofuel production will also end, pushing prices even higher.
In a report on industry trends, the PRA warned fuel taxes could increase by at least 10p a litre by the end of 2010. A widely-expected increase in the VAT rate to 20pc could push unleaded prices up to £1.23 a litre and diesel to £1.25 or even higher.
The RAC said the cost of filling the average 55-litre tank with unleaded had increased 22pc from £49 to £59.67 since December 2008, with diesel drivers facing a 9pc hike from £55.66 to £60.45.
Yesterday prices in Norwich varied between 106.9 and 110.9 for unleaded and 108.9 and 111.9 for diesel. But increases tend to take effect more slowly in cities and larger towns, where competition between supermarkets drives down prices.
“Rural areas do pay higher than the average,” said Paul Watters from the AA. “You have less hypermarkets, you have less choice, that leads to an increase in price.”
Staff at some service stations said prices would be going up over the next couple of days as fresh stocks of fuel arrived from wholesalers.