The Association of Convenience Stores) ACS has called on the chancellor to encourage investment in the UK’s 8,400 forecourts by committing to a business rates review in the 2020 Budget on March 11.

In its submission to the Budget, ACS has called for a business rates system that encourages investment and helps business to change, is fair for every type of business, and improves access to products and services.

Over the past year independent forecourt retailers invested an average of £14,463 in their stores, according to the ACS Forecourt Report 2019.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Business rates are a significant cost for forecourt retailers already, so many will be wary of making improvements to their sites in fear of even higher bills as a result.

“Nonetheless, this is in the context of rapid change in the forecourt sector, with stores looking to provide a wider range of services as well as considering the provision of EV charging points for customers, so it’s essential that this positive change is encouraged by the Government.

“We believe that forecourt retailers should be free to invest in new services and technology without the threat of higher rates bills as a result, so have urged the Chancellor to commit to reviewing the business rates system with a desired outcome of ensuring that investment is encouraged, not penalised.”

Other measures recommended in the ACS submission to the Government ahead of the Budget include:

• Remove through the wall free to use ATMs from the rating system;

• Freeze fuel duty in 2020;

• Exempt electric vehicle charging points and associated car parking spaces from the business rates system;

• Offset increases in the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage by increasing the Employment Allowance and the employer NICs threshold.

Lowman added: “Forecourt retailers are important employers of local people, providing over 90,000 secure, flexible jobs. However, significant increases in minimum wage rates have put extra pressure on the sector, especially as one in four independent forecourts and more than three quarters of multiple forecourts are open 24 hours. If this Government is committed to continued increases in minimum wage rates, it needs to provide mitigation for businesses to provide some level of security for the future.”