AN 80-year-old haulage business has reached the end of the road with management laying the blame firmly at the doors of numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street.

J. Oughton (Hauliers) Ltd has been a permanent fixture in the County Durham business community, surviving the depression and a world war before failing to withstand the recent hike in fuel prices.

The family firm based at Chilton has now gone into receivership, with the loss of around 20 jobs including 12 drivers.

MD Barrie Hindmarch said: "The major factor in this has been the increase in fuel prices.

"How are we supposed to cope with a rise of 20p in 12 months. The problem appears to be that this Government does not to live in the real world, and the people that do are suffering."

Mr Hindmarch, who is also chairman of Spennymoor Utd FC, said the spiralling cost of insurance had played a part and the "pittance" offered by the Chancellor in his pre-Budget report earlier this month gave firms like Oughton no chance.

"We've spent the last few years trying to absorb all these extra costs and there comes a point when you just can't absorb any more," he said.

"Maybe when one of the big names goes under they'll start taking notice. People are struggling to keep their heads above water and there'll be plenty of other businesses going the same way as ours."

Mr Hindmarch said it was a very emotional time when he explained to staff that the firm had reached the end of the road, especially as all the workers had been with the firm so long.

He said: "All the staff are long term with many serving 20 or more years. It been emotional time for everyone.