We all remember the ’panic buying’ in late March 2012 when there was the prospect of industrial action by Unite tanker drivers that could have interrupted fuel supplies to forecourts across the UK. This situation had been inflamed by ill-judged advice from a Cabinet Minister that encouraged motorists to stock up on road fuels at home.
The wave after wave of demand from motorists at the pumps revealed what all forecourt operators knew fuel stocks were being kept at a minimum because of the rapid increase in product price allied to high taxation. A 38,000 litre tanker of petrol today costs the retailer around £50,000, with 60% being duty and VAT hence the PRA activities to ensure that Government continues to support deferment to the retailer through the Excise Payment Security System (EPSS) as introduced in 2007.
While the forecourts were being drained dry last year, many retailers expressed deep concern to the PRA about the National Emergency Plan Fuels, which is the responsibility of the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC). Which forecourts have Designated Fuel Station (DFS) status? Why have our staff not been informed and/or trained? Why has my forecourt been selected and could I have refused? Will the Police assist with traffic management? These questions and many more indicated that the scheme in place was just not fit for purpose.
This message was passed on in robust terms by the PRA to DECC, and earlier this year the secretary of state Ed Davey wrote to me and confirmed that our constructive criticism was largely accepted. He also confirmed that the scheme would be reviewed and that the independent retailers would be fully consulted as our sites formed about 45% of those on the original list of DFS.
As a result, the PRA has established a small working party which will liaise closely with DECC to formulate a practical and reasonable scheme as quickly as possible. The first meeting takes place in London on December 19. A selection of multi-site and singleton retailers with DFS have been asked to this working party but we welcome comments about the scheme from all independent retailers.
It is good that Government are now involving retailers with such key processes.