Our industry is facing cost increases on an unprecedented scale. Firstly, the living wage increase has impacted us all. And this challenge, I believe, is by far and away the biggest we will face in the coming years. But hot on its heels is the huge business rates increase that many of us will have to pay.

The unfairness towards the petrol station/c-store sector continues to make us less competitive than standalone c-stores. It was an outrageous move by the VOA that targeted cash machines as a quick win, with rates charged on top of our store rates, making our ATMs non viable.

Secondly, the ever-increasing expense of waste disposal needs to be addressed. I have written about this issue before as we are the only industry that allows, even encourages, the general public to dispose of their personal waste at great expense to ourselves. Despite recycling all our cardboard and plastic, it still costs many thousands of pounds per site. This service to the community needs to be reflected in our rateable value. I consider that only 20% of what we throw away actually originated at Parkfoot. Our local authorities should be doing more. Recycling centres should be open for longer hours to make it easier for the public to dispose of or recycle their rubbish, and provision should be made for commercial waste, in order to prevent fly-tipping. Let’s face it, the threat of a fine just does not work. The plastic bottle, often still half-full of liquid when thrown away, is a huge problem to us. Why aren’t there more locations to recycle them? Should every site that sells them make provision to collect the empties? Perhaps we need a return to the deposit scheme to encourage careful disposal? Money is often the game changer, just look at what charging for plastic bags has achieved.

Our local recycling centre closes at 3.45pm on a Sunday, why? These sites should be open when people need them. We’ve all improved our businesses by giving the best customer service when our customers need it most and this often involves unsociable hours, going that extra mile and working at weekends. It’s time we made a saving for helping to save the earth.