The chancellor announced he was freezing fuel duty for the seventh year in a row, but the Cranbrook-based FairFuelUK group, which claims to have saved £70bn in fuel duty since its inception, admitted disappointment there wasn’t better news for drivers at the pumps.
Founder Howard Cox told us: “From our point of view it’s a missed opportunity to cut duty by at least three per cent.
“We produced an economic report saying it would create more jobs and I don’t understand why he was not bold enough because his own treasury said lower fuel duty benefits the economy by boosting GDP.
“The support from the likes of Helen Grant and Charlie Elphicke has been huge and they pushed like mad but this was a real opportunity help millions of hard working families, small businesses and the haulage industry to prosper.”
Suggesting the chancellor may not want to appear to incentivise people to use their cars more, co-founder Quentin Willson added: “This is not a car-friendly budget and the chancellor doesn’t appear to be on the side of UK drivers.
“The government makes these claims about helping people but they are not taking advantage of things that are there that would help them.”
However Mrs Grant took her Conservative colleague’s announcement as positive news, saying: “This freeze in fuel duty will help many businesses in my constituency of Maidstone and The Weald and it will give a real boost to drivers locally.
“I wholeheartedly support this step and I am grateful to the chancellor for listening to our concerns.”
Mr Hammond told MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday: “The oil price has risen by over 60 per cent since January; and sterling has declined by 15 per cent against the dollar.
“That means significant pressure on prices at the pump here in Britain.
“So today we stand on the side of the millions of hardworking people in our country by cancelling the fuel duty rise for the seventh successive year.
“In total this saves the average car driver £130 a year and the average van driver £350.
“This is a tax cut worth £850m next year, and means the current fuel duty freeze is the longest for 40 years.”
Mr Hammond also revealed there would be funding for grammar schools, saying: “The government’s education reforms have raised standards and expanded opportunity with 1.4 million more children now in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools.
“And the new capital funding I have provided today for grammar schools will help to continue that trend.”
The government will provide £50m of new capital funding to support the expansion of existing grammar schools in each year from 2017-18, and has set out proposals for further reforms in the consultation document ‘Schools that Work for Everyone’.
However, Labour councillors in Medway slammed the announcement.
The party’s spokesperson for child and young people, Adam Price, said: “We’ve been clear from day one that we do not want to abolish grammar schools but that we are opposed to the introduction of more new grammar schools.
“This government is going to do whatever it can to bring in new grammar schools and the decision to give them an extra £50m is a clear indication of this.
“But, at a time when all schools across Medway and the rest of the country are struggling to cope financially as it is, at a time when local services are being cut left, right and centre and, in an Autumn Statement where the chancellor fails to give any money to an NHS at crisis point, the idea that grammar schools are a priority is laughable and shameful.
“Britain does not need further division at this point but the chancellor has shown his intention to deliver it.
“This autumn statement will hit hard working families hardest whilst funding new grammar schools – that is the reality of this government.”
While the chancellor announced investment in roads and infrastructure across the country, including £220m for “traffic pinch points on strategic roads”, there was no specific decision made on the Lower Thames Crossing, earmarked east of Gravesend to ease congestion at Dartford.
Dartford’s Labour leader Jonathon Hawkes told us: “It’s unacceptable, people have had to live with this uncertainty for years.
“The latest consultation was in March and government experts have laid out a clear recommendation, but today they haven’t taken any decision, it’s really disappointing.”
Neighbouring Conservative MPs Gareth Johnson and Adam Holloway clashed over the issue in parliament last week, while their colleague, Rehman Chishti, quizzed the prime minister earlier this month on its progress.
Theresa May said: “We have consulted on proposals around a Lower Thames Crossing, there were more than 47,000 responses to that consultation.
“Those are being considered and the secretary of state for transport will make his response to that consultation in due course.”
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership, which works to drive economic growth in Kent and Medway, insisted it will continue to press the government to commit to the crossing plans.
It welcomed a third round of local growth funding from the chancellor, who announced £683m to be allocated across the south east, south west and London, with detailed breakdowns of what will go where to follow.
SELEP has bid for £229m of this funding, which would unlock a further £756m of private sector investment and other funding, and help create 73,672 more jobs and bring forward 31,052 new homes across the south east.
Chairman Christian Brodie said: “We have submitted a strong bid to government for funding that would support a range of projects of varying size and scale across the region.
“The news that the government will be announcing their response to our bid soon is positive, and we look forward to seeing the detail of that announcement and using the funds we receive to further boost the economy of the south east.
“Separately, we note that the chancellor was very clear on the importance of investing in infrastructure to boost productivity.
“SELEP notes his commitment to this and we will press very hard to ensure that government detail their commitment to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing at the earliest possible opportunity.”
MP for Dartford, Gareth Johnson, said: “I wasn’t surprised there was no announcement in the Autumn Statement about the Lower Thames Crossing, I wasn’t expecting one.
“The announcement, when it comes, will come from the Department for Transport not the Treasury.
“The announcement, however, for extra money for regional roads is welcomed and I’m optimistic Dartford will receive some of this funding.”
Meanwhile, Ukip has called for the scrapping of tolls at the Dartford Crossing in the party’s official response to the Autumn Statement.
Former Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless said: “We want to get Britain moving but are wary of ‘grand projects’ for infrastructure.
“Too often, they do more for the ego of the politicians who support them and the bank balance of consultants who advise on them, than they do for passengers or taxpayers.
“We should drop HS2 and invest more in ‘shovel-ready’ projects in the north, such as 30 minute train journeys time, four times an hour between Liverpool and Manchester, electrification of the South Wales valley lines, and scrapping tolls on the Mersey, Humber, Dartford and Severn crossings.”