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EDITIONS
Monday, 6 November, 2000, 14:14 GMT
The fuel protesters' story
Hauliers are holding out for a significant cut in fuel tax
On Wednesday, Chancellor Gordon Brown will outline his tax and spending plans for next year. He is under pressure from farmers and hauliers to reduce fuel taxes.

The BBC's Charles Rhodes has been investigating the claims of those pushing hardest for change.

Kay Gillam has a simple message for Gordon Brown, "Make it more even, "she says.

She is wondering how she will find the 3,000 to cover the Vehicle Excise Duties needed to keep two lorries on the road.

In the end Mrs Gillam, who gave up proof reading to help run the family haulage business, decides to take one truck off the road and gamble on paying 808.50 to keep the other one going for another six months.

Kay Gillam
Kay Gillam: "Make it more even"
On Wednesday, the Chancellor will reveal his tax and spending plans for the next year.

With the threat of more fuel protests looming, Mr Brown is under pressure from farmers and hauliers who say they are prepared to blockade oil depots and refineries again.

Protests could turn ugly

Kay and her husband, Tim supported September's protests but are worried that they could turn ugly this time.

They specialise in transporting heavy machinery and abnormal loads in Kent. So far they have managed to turn down work that does not pay.

But between them, they claim they earn less than they pay each of their six drivers.

Until now it has been worth it, they say, as they have watched competitors go out business as hauliers slash rates to get work.

But Tim is not optimistic about the future of the business.

"I'm only a small guy, but there are six wage packets that go out of here each week and that's six families that could need government support if we pack up."

John Burden
John Burden: On the brink
Not far away, on the Isle of Sheppy, John Burden is overseeing top quality hay being loaded and prepared for export to the Middle East, where it will be fed to race horses.

John, his four brothers and father, say they have tried everything, from dealing in farm machinery to contracting work to try to make ends meet.

But their business still trades at a loss. And that, says Mr. Burden, is what prompted him to protest for the first time in his life.

He is now a managing co-ordinator for the Peoples' Fuel Lobby, heavily involved in organising the next series of protests.

He does not expect Mr Brown to deliver the 26.2p cut in fuel duty they want before the 13 November deadline set by the protesters.

The Burdens' straw export business is trading at a loss
Although the 'red diesel' used in agriculture escapes the tax that ordinary motorists and hauliers have to pay, farmers still claim the rising cost of fuel is crippling their livelihoods.

Mr Burden says: "The increase in the fuel price is going to cost me 80,000 to 90,000 a year and the farmers struggled to pay my bills last year. Where is that going to come from?"

Pondering the prospect of more protests, he wonders how many of his customers will be able to afford his bills this time.


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04 Nov 00 | UK
03 Nov 00 | UK Politics
03 Nov 00 | UK
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