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Grant Shapps slammed for ‘crazy’ decision on electric vehicle grants

Grant Shapps - House of Commons
Grant Shapps - House of Commons

The boss of Halfords has hit out at Grant Shapps' "crazy" decision to scrap electric car subsidies amid soaring fuel prices.

Chief executive Graham Stapleton demanded a rethink of the policy after the price of petrol and diesel hit another record high this week.

The Government on Tuesday unexpectedly scrapped the £1,500 subsidy for purchases of new electric cars.

It will use the money saved from the closure of the scheme to fund public charging infrastructure, which the Government called “the main barriers to the electric vehicle transition”.

Mr Stapleton warned the decision will hit those on lower incomes the hardest and it would slow down the electric car revolution.

He said: “The reason we’re disappointed with the decision is that the customers that most need the help and the subsidy to get into the electric car market have seen that removed during the cost of living crisis.

“The Government is apparently trying to help customers save money and this obviously would because it moves fuel and diesel cars into electric and at the same time they’re committed to reducing the carbon footprint.

“It just feels crazy to remove this at a time where that is so important and businesses like ours and others are investing in that eclectic transition.”

He will write to Mr Shapps, the Transport Secretary, to ask him to reconsider.

He added: “We’re super disappointed with it, we think it’s bad timing, it’s the wrong call. It came out of absolutely nowhere, it just makes absolutely no sense to us at all.”

Mr Stapleton is one of several industry figures to condemn the government’s decision to axe the grants. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the move “comes at the worst possible time”. Edmund King, AA president, said: “The plug has been pulled at the wrong time.”

The scheme has provided more than £1.4bn to motorists and facilitated the purchase of nearly half a million electric and hybrid vehicles since it launched in 2011.

It initially started at £5,000 and was designed to narrow the cost between electric and petrol and diesel cars. The grant was repeatedly cut before being scrapped this week.

The Government plans to support the purchase of other road vehicles going forward such as plug-in taxis, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and wheelchair accessible vehicles, where the transition requires more development. Support was always meant to be temporary, it said.

Mr Stapleton’s intervention came as he told shareholders that pre-tax profits at Halfords will be lower in the new financial year amid economic uncertainty.

The company faces the prospect of “reduced demand, particularly for more discretionary, higher ticket items, and significant cost inflation”.

Shares sank 20pc in early trading.

Despite the dour outlook, Halfords posted a 49.8pc increase in pre-tax profits for the year to April 1, rising to £96.6m.

Meanwhile, total revenues increased by almost a fifth to £1.3bn compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Retail motoring sales grew by 6.5pc, while its cycling business was up 2.7pc against two year ago. However, cycling revenue was significantly lower against last year after a cycling boom during the pandemic.