Businesses and charities in the South-East are struggling with the country's steep fuel costs as it emerges the UK has the highest petrol prices in Europe.

The average cost of petrol in the UK is now more than 80p per litre yet in almost all European countries it is well below 70p.

And motorists are being charged more now than when the petrol crisis took place in 2000, which was held in protest at the rising costs.

Unimatco, which operates from Oxford Road in Gerrards Cross, has specialised in shipping for missionaries and overseas aid workers since 1976.

Brenda Chudley, director, said their work is costing a fortune.

She said: "The haulage we send out is obviously costing more as carriers are having to pay more for their diesel. It is going to put the price up of general freight charges.

"It is making quite a difference. It basically comes from church money. We don't make much profit."

According to the AA, Safeway in High Wycombe is one of the cheapest stations at 78.9p.

Philip Emmett, director of Emmett's Farm in Little Marlow added: "We have been saying how the Government is taxing the motorist off the road. The cost of transport has gone up by about 30 per cent in the last two years and it is something we cannot recoup from the customer."

Now the Association of British Drivers is calling for the Chancellor to cut fuel taxes as prices are the highest they have been for 13 years.

Brian Gregory, chairman, said: "This extortionate milking of the motorist has to stop. This Government sees drivers as nothing more than a cash cow. The average road in the UK would have signs warning of poor road conditions if it were in France or Spain yet we are paying far more in taxes.

"How have we been allowed to fall so far behind when we are charged so much?"

A Treasury spokesman said: "The current concerns surrounding fuel prices are not an issue of duty. Duty is currently nine per cent less in real terms than it was in 1999.

"Motorists have already benefited by £300 million this year through the postponement of the duty increase until September.

"The vast majority of motorists should have access to sulphur-free fuel by the autumn and using this, duty increase will be in line with inflation, which means there will be no real increase at all this year for them."