We live in an age where the buzzword is ’austerity’. Many readers of this column may not have seen a pay increase for several years. Indeed some may well have suffered a substantial reduction in their pay over the past few years, as their businesses have struggled to survive. However, annually since 1998 we’ve crunched the data in order to bring you a unique a snapshot of pay rates in the petrol retailing industry.

Each September we capture a ’freeze-frame’ of what each hourly-paid employee received during that month. The data is then split by geographic region and we work out the national and regional average pay rates, and compare them to earlier results. The ’unique’ feature is that these are actual pay rates that have been processed on behalf of employers.

Let’s just remind ourselves of how things looked last time around, in September 2010:

UK national average forecourt pay rate September 2010 was £6.04 per hour.

Retail Price Index (RPI August 2010) was 224.5.

Adult minimum wage rate was £5.80/hr (18-20 rate was £4.83/hr).

Now the corresponding position as of September 2011:

UK national average forecourt pay rate September 2011 = £6.22 per hour.

RPI (August’ 2011*) = 236.1.

Adult minimum wage rate was £5.93/hr (18-20 rate was £4.92/hr).

So over the course of those 12 months, the changes amounted to:

Average forecourt pay increased by 3%.

Price inflation increased by 5.2%.

Statutory minimum wage rate increased by 2.2%.

Those are the overall results. We do compare them regionally as well, but in all honesty there’s been less and less significance in the regional results for some time now.

Over the past five or six years regional pay differentials have tended to narrow, with some of the previously lowest-paying regions playing ’catch-up’.

We just don’t see the wide variations that we used to get in the early days of this exercise. Having said that

Midlands £6.63/hr from £6.31 (+5.1%) last year. For the second year in succession this was the highest-paying average rate, although this time it didn’t have the top-individual rate.

North west England £6.29/hr from £6.01 (+4.7%). A region that saw another above-average increase of pay to move up to second place in the pay league this year.

North of England £6.28/hr from £6.11 (+2.8%). This moves this region down to third this year. Also had the highest-paying individual site rate this year.

Eastern England £6.25/hr from £5.94 (+5.2%) bringing this region up to fourth place. In the early days of the reports this had frequently been one of UK’s highest-paying regions, but had slipped during the mid-to-late ’noughties’.

South east England £6.23/hr from £6.05 (+3.0%). This is down one place, but in terms of actual pay rate and percentage increase, it is bang in line with the national average results.

Scotland £6.17/hr from £5.97 (+3.4%). Historically this is often one of the lowest-paying regions, but just as last year, it has seen a steady rise up the table.

Greater London £6.12/hr from £6.04 (+1.3%). A strange one this. Until 2009 this region was usually in the top three if not ’top’. However, for the third year in a row, we’ve seen very small increases in pay rates here.

Wales £6.12/hr from £5.87 (+4.3%). Rather similar to the results from Scotland, historically one of the lowest-paying regions slowly moving up relative to the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland £6.10/hr from £5.84 (+4.5%) an above-average increase sees this region off the bottom of the table this year.

South west England £6.08/hr from £6.08 (no change). The only region not to show any overall increase in pay rates at all in the past 12 months, and that followed a very small increase (0.8%) in 2009/10. This had been the number-one paying region for a couple of years, ending in 2009, and has fallen quite dramatically since then.

In case you’ve not had enough figures already, we thought it might be interesting to put some of the current results in their historic context; how have things changed in the past 10 years?

In September 2001 our national rate was £4.35/hr; RPI was 174.00 and the minimum wage rate (adult) was £3.70/hr.

In September 2011, the equivalents were: £6.22, 236.1* and £5.93 respectively.

So over 10 years: petrol retailing average pay rates have increased by 43%, price inflation has been 36% and the minimum wage rate has increased by 60%.

Unfortunately, at the present time, pay increases are lagging substantially behind retail price inflation, and there’s little sign of that changing in the near future.

So as far as predictions are concerned the trend analysis suggests a national figure of £6.47 in a year’s time; but it’s been over-estimating the real results for a couple of years now, and in the current climate it would take a brave individual to wager on any results. Realistically we’d be expecting no more than a 2% increase in pay rates over the next 12 months, taking the headline national rate to around £6.35.

Reminder National minimum wage rate from October 1,2011

The rate increased slightly on October 1 (just a few weeks after these figures were compiled) to:

£6.08 per hour for employees 21 years of age and over (up from £5.93)

£4.98 per hour for employees between 18 and 21 years of age (up from £4.92)

£3.68 per hour for employees 16 and 17 years of age (up from £3.64).

Finally, special thanks to Craig Anderson and Allan Pearson at PAYEPeople for extracting the data without which these reports wouldn’t be possible.

RPI is from August 2011 latest available at the time of writing.