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Money Talk: Pantomime season is extended to September

At almost the last minute, the government cancelled this month's intended rise in fuel duty. The pressure groups and special interest lobbies claimed a victory; George Osborne looks like a politician who's listening to 'the people'; the petrol retail industry avoids another rise in costs; and consumers avoid another hammering that they could barely afford. Everyone's a winner. It was the right result, so why does it still feel like a ridiculous way to deal with something as important as the price of a basic commodity that is essential to a 21st century economy? Perhaps it's because we've now seen this pantomime several times a year recently and, according to the official timetable, we're due for yet another performance in the run-up to the next scheduled duty rise on September 1.

Money Talk: Forecourt pay rates rose 1.1% to September 2012

There are several ways of trying to establish 'average' pay rates in an industry or area. You can ask employers what they pay their staff or you can ask employees what they receive. Or you can do what we've been doing every year since 1998 examine the payroll data that PAYEPeople process on behalf of hundreds of forecourt operators across the UK and work out the real hourly pay rates that were being paid to thousands of individual employees.

Money Talk: Beware hype, spin and selective statistics

You've read the headlines: 'Fuel sales plummet by 500 million litres' and the like, based on figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Naturally these headlines have prompted the inevitable cries of doom from the usual suspects, to the effect that it's all down to fuel pricing in general and fuel duty in particular, and Something Must Be Done!

Money Talk: Don't expect the OFT to solve all your problems

No doubt many of you will have been pleased by two recent pieces of news the Office of Fair Trading's announcement of another investigation into UK retail fuel pricing, and the Energy Minister's pledge to refer the workings of the international fuel price mechanisms to the Financial Services Authority.

Money Talk: Find out why you spend so much time in the red

This subject just won't go away it's a discussion that takes place on so many forecourts when dealers receive their latest management accounts: "You're telling me that my business is profitable, but I never have any cash, and my bank account is always overdrawn. One of us must be getting something wrong." The reality is, of course, that neither is wrong. It's entirely possible for a business to operate with normal levels of profit, but suffer from poor cash flow.

Money Talk: Making business bank accounts work for you

The banks have taken quite a kicking in the past few years but one has to feel sympathy for the hard-pressed customer-facing staff working in the High Street branches. Their numbers culled annually in the cause of 'efficiency', they've had to take the brunt of customer complaints about policies and practices that were devised by the directors who pocketed annual salaries and bonuses 50, 100, or 500 times their salaries. The people, for example, who had to work weekends when one of the largest banks in the UK effectively 'froze' the accounts of thousands of customers for a week or two because their IT department forgot the basic rules of any upgrade to business-critical systems.

Lonesome George and the fuel duty Balls-up...

Throughout June there was endless speculation in the media over whether the government would stick with its planned fuel duty increase on August 1. At the same time, with crude oil prices having fallen from a peak of around $130 a barrel earlier in the year to around $90, pump prices had fallen steadily to a point where 'mainstream' retail sites in some areas had started selling unleaded petrol at below 130ppl. It seemed pretty obvious that the lower commodity price gave the perfect cover for a tax rise. And, since the Chancellor had already performed so many U-turns reversing Budget announcements that he must be feeling dizzy, surely this was one tax increase that would go ahead, regardless of unpopularity?

Eggs, baskets and book-keeping systems...

The panic in the lady's voice was hard to miss. She had a VAT return to complete and file with HMRC in a matter of days, but all of her book-keeping data had 'gone'. Gone as in completely un-recoverable from a laptop PC that had been left sitting on a coffee table at her home when the property was flooded in a flash flood. Fortunately she'd left the original paperwork back in the office at her site. The monthly 'Z' reports were easily obtainable from the POS system. And the purchase invoices for the last few months were still sitting in the office, waiting to be filed. A few days' work and she would be able to compile a reasonably correct VAT return, albeit one that would be missing some of the detailed information from petty-cash transactions that had been recorded on the PC. Immediate panic over, but more headaches and hard work to follow.

Time for an 'OfPet'?

The recent fuel-crisis-that-never-was proved interesting for a number of reasons. Government ministers advising consumers to buy jerry cans and hoard petrol at home was merely the most amusing but at least it served to highlight just how important the petroleum retail industry is to the normal functioning of everyday life. Important is too mild a word 'essential' or 'vital' are more appropriate adjectives. In a society and economy like ours, the continuing availability of motor fuel is hardly any less important than the continued supply of water, gas, electricity and telecommunications links. Sever any of these for more than a few hours and watch life as we know it start to disintegrate.

Forecourt stores are still really hooked on tobacco

Every retailer has been aware for many months of the impending ban on tobacco displays in 'large' stores those over 280sq m or 3,000sq ft which comes into effect on April 6 in England, and on October 6 in Northern Ireland. At the time of writing it was still unclear precisely when the ban would be applied in Scotland or Wales.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 4 November 2019
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East Midlands130.73139.73126.64
North East129.5562.90137.10125.31
North West129.9963.90138.40126.48
Northern Ireland128.05133.57124.33
South East131.4566.90139.66127.42
South West130.7674.90137.94126.68
West Midlands130.4059.90137.63126.57
Yorkshire & Humber130.02139.47126.29

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