The Federation of Petroleum Suppliers’ Forecourt Division has joined other trade associations in seeking suspension of the fuel duty increase due to come into effect at the end of March. The two pence per litre rise in fuel duty last autumn is to be followed by a further rise of 2ppl from April 1 this year, at a time when the price of a barrel of oil is approaching $100.

"While most people understand that the haulage industry and consumers will be badly affected by this imposition, not many appreciate that independent forecourt operators will also be affected," said a spokesman for the Federation.

"Many of these forecourts are in rural areas, providing a lifeline to the local community. But, due to low turnover, any rise in duty has a devastating effect on their cashflow. These sites are already struggling to make ends meet and are no longer able to keep their storage tanks full. A further 2ppl hike in the duty rate and will undoubtedly result in further forecourt closures. In recent years, these closures have been running at almost 600 a year and there are now only just over 6,000 left open. The total number of forecourts stands at fewer than there were in 1912!

The Government is failing to drive the motorist off the road with its transport “green” programme, but, amongst the other, unintended casualties, are the independent forecourts.

As an organisation, the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS) would welcome a reduction in the duty on fuel, not an increase, and will be putting forward its views when it meets the Treasury early next month.