Yesterday’s budget, as predicted, saw the Chancellor scrap the tax rebate for red diesel and Non-Road Machinery (NRM) vehicles. This means that, in 2023, fuel bills for generators, plant and fairgrounds will increase.

The diesel is coloured with a red dye to ensure it is not illegally used in road vehicles. It is estimated to account for 15% of the total use of diesel in the UK.

The Showmen’s Guild, the trade association for the Fairground industry, representing over 2,100 operating Show people and 24,000 family members overall, fears any changes to ‘Red’ Diesel duty could see the Show Community face increases of nearly 50p per litre.

They issued the following statement:

‘Red’ diesel currently has a duty of 11.1p per litre compared with 57.7p for standard diesel.

‘Red’ Diesel is the lifeblood of the Fairground & Show industry, as it alone powers all operations of the entertainment as well as the domestic power whilst the Showmen are on site at fairs.

Its use is thus far at reduced taxation exists because it is specifically not used on the road (where the tax that would otherwise be paid supports roadbuilding and maintenance).
• Showmen use regular diesel (‘White’ Diesel) on the road, like anyone else and not only is it illegal to use ‘red’ Diesel on the road,
• But the Showmen’s Guild Rules specifically forbid abuse of the fuel-rebate-concession; with heavy financial sanctions within the Guild’s judicial process for such an infringement.
• There are other businesses who legitimately also use ‘Red’ Diesel, including our colleagues who organise Outdoor Festivals;
• However, it is larger industries such as the Construction; Rail; Airport (ground operations) and Marine operations industries make up the bulk of the 15% of diesel-use overall that ‘Red Diesel’ represents and their ability to swallow the loss of the tax concession is far greater than that of the Fairground, Show and Event industry.

For Fairgrounds, Circuses and Shows, more so than many others, there is no alternative power source and:
• Cleaner versions of the fuel are still at experimental stage, although being trailed;
• But alternative fuel-development is out of the industry’s hands.

The Fairground, Circus and Show industry is just surviving with increased costs overall:
• Including land-rental from local councils and other landowners;
• Possible increases in wage bills following changes to Immigration Policy and the shortage of skilled and semi-skilled labour;
• As well as the uncertain outlook for outdoor events this season overall with the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Showmen need the fuel rebate for ‘Red’ Diesel to continue in order to survive economically.
• It would be no exaggeration to state that without it, the operation of the Showmen’s events would be unsustainable altogether
• And the entertainment on offer would be unaffordable, especially competing with other (static) public entertainment that does not have these costs.

There was a consultation initiated jointly by DEFRA and HM Treasury in 2017-18; which the Showmen’s Guild (amongst many others) responded to in June 2018, via their Transport lawyers Backhouse Jones. Backhouse Jones also advise The Freight Transport Association (FTA) of whom The Showmen’s Guild are also members.

Following the responses to the consultation, from many industries, including The Showmen’s Guild for the Fairground Industry, no action was taken or discussed – until now when what appears to be a decision has been made with revenue-raising, ahead of environmental gains and which ignores the responses to the 2017-18 consultation.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Fairs and Showgrounds members wrote to the Chancellor expressing the industry’s concerns, ahead of next Wednesday’s Budget.

Individual Showmen including Showmen’s Guild Members are also contacting their own constituency MPs with the same message from their own point of view