So last month the Government finally produced its report on the refining and fuel import sectors in the UK (it was due early January) and there seems to have been a collective gasp of disappointment (News Extra page 10). Chris Hunt, UKPIA director general (see column page 7) felt it failed to fully address the issues facing the industry, in particular the regulatory burdens imposed on the sector by the legislators. Considering there used to be 19 refineries in the UK 40 years ago, and there’s now only seven with one or two teetering on the edge he does have a point.

Market forces clearly have an impact, and there’s only so far you can go when the world and its demands are constantly changing. But we don’t really want to be in the position of being totally reliant on oil imports for our energy needs - at the mercy of tankers hanging around at sea until the price is right. Chris Hunt believes the UK’s downstream oil industry is on the threshold of a new relationship with the Government. Let’s hope it’s a positive one.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson was also singularly unimpressed with the report, particularly the lack of a sense of urgency about the issues surrounding security of fuel supply. The report recommends the formation of a special ’Task Force’, which does rather sound like a convoy of heavy duty Royal Navy ships sent to tackle a political problem on the other side of the world. In other words, it could take a while!

Meanwhile Brian is on the war path on another mission tackling the potential scourge of plain packaging. The PRA is getting behind Priti Patel’s campaign to oppose the Government’s plans. A backbench revolt is expected, and pressure on MPs by you, the retailers, is being encouraged. Changes in the cost of alcohol licensing are also afoot. More threats to a convenience retailer’s profitability.

And yet with all this going on, there is still much to celebrate in the retail sector as we see every year in our awards. Don’t forget the entry deadline is May 16.