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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 December 2007, 20:15 GMT
Low turnout for fuel price demos
A fuel protester carrying a sign
The fuel protests have been small and isolated events
Nationwide protests against the rising cost of fuel failed to attract as many demonstrators as organisers hoped.

Protests were planned at oil refineries across the UK, but only a small number of people braved the cold to turn up.

In Southampton, 25 people attended the largest planned demonstration but another protest in Essex consisted of a single pensioner.

Organisers insisted the fight against rising fuel prices would continue into the New Year.

Rebates

Saturday's protests were called by an umbrella group - Transaction 2007 - which represents farmers and road hauliers, among other road users.

The group is concerned that rising fuel prices - now above 1 per litre - are hurting its members financially. It wants the government to cut fuel duty and introduce rebates for what it calls "essential" road users.

It also wants extra duties to be imposed on non-UK lorries that come into the country on business.

Fifteen fuel price protesters arrived at the giant Fawley refinery in Southampton, but at Grangemouth in Falkirk, no-one turned up.

In a separate protest organised by the Scottish branch of the Road Haulage Association, a convoy of 45 trucks travelled across central Scotland.

Around eight protesters gathered at Chester Services, on the M56, before moving to a protest point at the gates of the Ellesmere Port refinery, but the demonstration was later abandoned.

Loud and clear

Local organiser Tom Houghton, a beef farmer from nearby Sandbach, denied the action was a failure and said: "We are sending the message to Mr Brown loud and clear."

He warned: "It only takes a few trucks to bring this country to gridlock. I hope it doesn't come to that but it could easily happen given the seriousness of the situation."

Any disruption to fuel supply would cause a great deal of inconvenience to people
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

There were no lorry drivers at the fuel depot at Purfleet, Essex, where a demonstration was due to be staged - but there was a protest from a lone pensioner.

June Walker, 61, of Rainham, Essex, said: "I've got nothing to do with the haulage industry. I'm just a pensioner who pays 57 to fill up a Peugeot 307."

Eight supporters turned out for a protest in Cardiff, outside the Texaco refinery at the city's Roath Dock. There were also eight protesters at Jarrow - all on foot.

Protester Rob Muir, a 42-year-old farmer from Wolsingham, Co Durham, was disappointed more people had not joined the demonstration.

He said: "We just roll over and take it in this country.

"If this was France it would be a different story. There are eight of us here and I thought there would be a lot more than that."

Back after Christmas

The chairman of one of the groups involved in the protest - Farmers for Action - warned that if the government refused to negotiate his members would continue to protest into the New Year.

David Handley - who helped lead a successful fuel-tax protest in 2000 - insisted he was not disappointed with the turnout.

He said: "If the government don't sit down with us then we will be back after Christmas and it won't be as pleasant as it is now - if you put a rat up a drainpipe and he can't do anything to get out, what's he going to do?"

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said the situation was being monitored and plans were in place to "mitigate any future fuel supply disruptions".

Meanwhile a coalition of leading environmentalists have called on the government to improve public transport and encourage more efficient vehicles, rather than cut fuel tax.

Tony Bosworth of Friends of the Earth said: "If the government is serious about tackling climate change it must not cave in to pressure to make road travel even cheaper."

In October duty on fuel rose by 2p per litre. Duty rises over the last decade add up to 25% - less than the rate of inflation. But oil prices have gone up 270% in the same period.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Haulier in Chester explains why he is protesting



SEE ALSO
Fuel protest convoy set to roll
14 Dec 07 |  Scotland
Average petrol cost at 1 a litre
07 Nov 07 |  Business
Petrol price rises: The impact
09 Nov 07 |  Business
Tax rise fuels petrol price fears
01 Oct 07 |  Business
UK fuel prices reach new record
27 Apr 06 |  Business

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