VALE councillors are ‘taking a stand’ against Tesco and demanding a cut in the supermarket’s ‘inflated’ Aylesbury petrol prices.
Senior members of Aylesbury Vale District Council believe that pump prices are up to 5p higher than in neighbouring towns and cities because the supermarket has a monopoly in the town.
The Fair Fuel UK Campaign has backed the challenge to the UK’s largest retailer, saying it has never heard of ‘a council going for Tesco’ – although doubting it will make ‘a blind bit of difference’.
In response the supermarket refused to be drawn on the implications of being ‘taken on’ by a council and issued its ‘standard statement’ saying: “Our aim is to be competitive on the price of fuel in the catchment area of each of our stores.”
Deputy leader of the council Michael Edmonds confirmed he will be ‘pressing’ the two Aylesbury stores and bosses at the supermarket’s head office for an explanation – and will not accept a ‘standard response’.
He has also backed an online petition, from councillor Mark Winn, which claims that in one day Aylesbury motorists paid £1.36 a litre (about £6.12 a gallon) for unleaded fuel, while drivers in Milton Keynes and Luton paid £1.31 and in Wycombe £1.32.
Mr Winn said: “We only have one supermarket that sells fuel within the town and this seems to be the only reason our fuel prices are higher than surrounding towns
“The higher price that we pay for fuel in Aylesbury is damaging to individuals and businesses in these dire financial times and we therefore ask Tesco to live up to its slogan that Every Little Helps and bring the price they pay for fuel in the town more into line with what they charge in other towns in our area.”
Councillor Edmonds said: “I have always, for some years, been conscious that the fuel prices in and around Aylesbury are usually higher than other places in the county and I am not sure why that is.
“With my economic development hat on, it makes it more expensive for people to get to work and to have stuff delivered. It has got to have an economic effect.”
The Long Crendon councillor believes that ‘having the council looking into this adds more weight’.
Fellow cabinet member Phil Yerby said : “In my view many people in Aylesbury are paying much higher prices than they would normally do and this needs to be looked at. If the slogan Every Little Helps means something, then they should so something about it.”
Lynne Beaumont, from the Fair Fuel UK Campaign, said: “I have never heard of a council going for Tesco or any other supermarket – I think it is great actually.”
“I think good luck to them. I can’t imagine it is going to make a blind bit of difference. But it is great they are trying this, especially in a rural area where people have no choice but to use their cars.
“The supermarket price war is actually putting independents out of business. I think 3,000 garages closed last year because they can’t compete. If supermarkets have no competition then they can do what they like and that is what is happening.”
Ms Beaumont stresses that although she backs Aylesbury Vale District Council, her campaign is aimed at persuading the government to reduce fuel duty – which is currently 83p on every litre.
Fair Fuel UK is appealing for a 5p a litre cut in duty, which the group claims would raise more for the Treasury because as petrol sales have decreased as prices have increased.
The Bucks Herald did ask Tesco to comment on whether this challenge to its fuel policy was the first to come from a council, In response the supermarket forwarded its ‘standard response’, saying: “Like all petrol retailers, we operate a local pricing policy. Our aim is to be competitive on the price of fuel in the catchment area of each of our stores.”