Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Red diesel and snow.

According to the Mail
Farmers have ... been warned they could face fines if they grit snow-blocked roads using tractors powered on red diesel.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) issued guidance to the National Farmers Union warning them not to use the reduced-tax fuel when gritting.

We Rigbys think the situation is getting beyond ludicrous. So not only are farmers, who might be able to help, being threatened with fines but the only way they can get their snow-clearing equipment onto the roads is if they spend time draining their fuel tanks to ensure every trace of red diesel is removed, and then refill with the undyed stuff - then repeat the process if they want to use their vehicle on their farms. Talk about labour-intensive, when a slight relaxation of the rules, or common-sense ignoring them because it's important would be much more useful.

Not only have councils been ordered not to salt or grit 'minor' roads, they've also been told not to grit pavements or hard shoulders on major roads - because there isn't enough salt or grit in Britain to get the job done. One thing they seem to have forgotten is that councils have a duty to maintain public footpaths so that nobody falls over - let's wait and see how many people make a claim for negligence, after falling over and breaking an arm or a leg on a dangerously slippery pavement.

The few people who could help out by clearing side roads of snow are being threatened with financial penalties if they do something useful, something of benefit to this country.
But the move has been criticised by those who claim it could stop farmers reaching neighbours stranded in the deep snow.

Under current rules farmers can only grit roads if using tractors powered by white diesel - the standard fully-taxed diesel for trucks, vans and cars.
Yes, we know the difference between red and white diesel. The red is a hard-to-remove dye. We also know that tiny traces of red diesel left in a tank that's then refilled with white diesel can lead to prosecution from over-zealous enforcers.
Geoff O'Connell, a parish councillor in Belford, Northumberland, said: 'Doesn't anyone at HMRC realise that we are experiencing a national emergency, one of the worst outbreaks of Arctic weather for decades?'

Clearly not! - But there have been having meetings to talk about it.

Maybe there is hope though, and farmers will be able to help out without being fined. There's more about the red diesel rules in Farmer's Guardian, which says:-
FARMERS should be aware in which circumstances tractors can be used in the current harsh weather conditions sweeping the UK to avoid facing the wrath of the law.

As many farmers are assisting with road clearance with ploughs, towing cars and gritting roads around the UK to support councils and local authorities, many may be unsure what is legal with the red stuff in the tank and what is not.

The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) clarifies that tractors can be used for snow clearance on public highways when running on red, but not when on private land such as in supermarket car parks, or land that is not maintained by a council or highways agency. On the other hand, the NAAC says that gritting using red diesel is only legal with a dedicated gritting machine i.e. one that is purely designed for this role.

Tractors with spreaders which are either mounted or towed behind are not legal on red diesel, and even vehicles towing gritting equipment mounted on trailers, those into which gritting material is merely dropped or held in place with straps, or drop-sided vehicles carrying grit for manual spreading are not permitted to use rebated fuel.

1 comment:

Witterings From Witney said...

Don't you just love the bureaucratic mindset? It beggars belief, it really does!