POLL: Rural areas of Devon and Cornwall losing out in two-tier fuel price market
Drivers in the Westcountry are having to put up with a "Jekyll and Hyde" attitude to petrol pricing with costs fluctuating by several pence within a matter of miles.
According to the AA, some towns are charging far more for petrol and diesel than others with "pump price dogfights" within some cities.
Despite the surge in UK petrol prices slowing, fuel costs in the region are still amongst the highest in England – an average of 137.8p per litre of petrol, 1.6p more than a month ago.
The association drew on the example of Exeter in its report, where the price of petrol was 2p to 3p cheaper in the west of the city to the east, which was again up to 2p cheaper than nearby Dawlish and Crediton.
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Malcolm Bell, head of tourism at VisitCornwall, said it could create the wrong perception for holidaymakers who might not possess the local knowledge to get themselves the best deal.
He said: "People have to drive though Devon to get to Cornwall, and are probably using a quarter to a third of a tank more. A visitor doesn't know where the best deals are, which might give them the perception that things are more expensive than they otherwise are. My advice to businesses would be to advise visitors on where they can get the lowest deals."
Ben Rhodes, chief executive of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said given the nature of business in the region the fluctuation could make the difference between making a profit or not. He said: "I think it does have a big impact. If you are in London, you can get to eight to ten meetings a day and not travel further than eight to 10 miles. In Devon or Cornwall you travel 100 to 200 miles for just two or three meetings."
Jason Holman, operations manager at Tavistock-based Holman Coaches, said the firm spends about £25,000 to £30,000 a month on fuel. He said: "I just tell the drivers 'when you are driving focus on getting the cheapest fuel, usually somewhere like Morrisons, and keep away from motorway services'. As you can imagine, our coaches do seven miles to the gallon, every time there is a 2p a litre increase it all adds up."
The AA said the UK average had hidden the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the UK fuel pricing market. It said: "Prices in some towns have gone up substantially more – some places passing on the full 5p per litre lift in wholesale prices during early July."
The UK Petroleum Industry Association said the supermarkets had increased their share of trade massively, having an impact on the make up of the market. It said taxation had the biggest impact on fuel prices but wholesaler profit, competition and commercial objectives were local factors.