jeremy hunt

There were mixed responses across the forecourt sector to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement earlier this week.

Ken McMeikan, CEO of Moto Hospitality, said: “I am extremely encouraged by the government’s decision to transform the planning system in favour of delivering low-carbon energy projects and the prioritisation of EV charging hubs. This will go a long way to removing some of the biggest barriers that industry has been facing within EV and is very positive news for everyone involved in driving forward the electric future on the UK’s roads.”

“Alongside this, the acceptance of the Winser review’s recommendations in full to significantly increase capacity and access to power for businesses like Moto, is vital to allow us to continue to invest in rapidly expanding our network of ultra-rapid chargers at sites across the UK.

“This goes right to the heart of what Moto has been calling for and we are delighted that many of the actions we called for in our ‘Motofesto’ have featured in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

“While we wholeheartedly welcome the announcement, accelerating the availability of sufficient power to major travel hubs like motorway service areas needs to be made a national priority and we stand ready to work with the government during its consultation to feed into its plans and ensure they are delivered as quickly and effectively as possible.”

However, property guru Steve Rodell, who is managing director of retail and leisure at Christie & Co, was not as happy with the Chancellor’s announcements: “While the Autumn statement revealed several positive changes for individuals, the measures affecting the convenience retail and forecourt sectors weren’t as supportive as we had hoped and may move to impact customers in the long run.

“An effective 10% rise in the national living wage will benefit staff but along with an increase in tobacco duty other increased costs will create significant added pressure to the bottom line. Undoubtedly retailers will pass these costs onto customers to maintain profit margins in the challenging economic environment. This could lead to increases in food prices which may drive up inflation again. Many of our clients may wonder whether the business rates relief will impact them so we’ll be looking to provide further clarity on this in the coming weeks.”

For Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers Association, it was all a bit disappointing, specifically that there was no advance announcement to freeze fuel duty. He said: “We look forward to persuading the Chancellor to make the announcement in his Spring Budget.”

Balmer also gave his thoughts on the absence of a consultation for the permanent fuel price transparency scheme: “The PRA and its members have worked closely with the relevant government departments on the development of the interim fuel price transparency scheme. The consultation on a permanent scheme was due to be released in autumn, and it is concerning that the Chancellor has not addressed its ongoing absence.”

On the Chancellor’s business rates announcements, Balmer said: “It is disappointing that the Chancellor has opted to raise the national business rate multiplier. It is in direct contravention to their promise in 2019 to reduce business rates and will add bills to retailers already paying rates that are far too high.

“The announcements in the Autumn Statement will see fixed costs increase yet again for petrol retailers. Nevertheless, our members will continue to keep their communities fuelled and fed to the best of their ability.”