Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community

Service Centre:Jac Roper looks at charges for cash deposits; the legality of staff; and allergy labelling

I don't understand why the cost of banking cash has to be so high. In Kumar Selvakumar's case, it was about to be astronomical. Barclays had written to him at his Black Horse Service Station in east London's Walthamstow to tell him that, on August 23, his charges would be going up to 95p for every £100 banked. He has worked out that this will cost his 2mlpa site £9,500 a year.

His bit of Walthamstow is currently undergoing all sorts of upheaval. In fact 'upheaval' is a mild term for it. The roadworks were so serious that Certas Energy said it had to mount the kerb to get in and out so the loads had to get smaller. When Kumar phoned me the tube was due to shut for three weeks' improvements by Transport for London (TfL) and Waltham Forest Council at the same time was promoting a 'Mini Holland cycling scheme'.

The background to this is that TfL and the Mayor of London announced a competition for outer London boroughs to bid for money from a £100m pot to transform major town centres into areas ideal for cycling with ideas taken from continental approaches to design (I'm quoting from its website).

Waltham Forest only has one 'major town centre' that met the selection criteria Walthamstow. So the council made a bid for Walthamstow to become a mini Holland and won £30m.

So how would you like to be running a petrol station in the middle of that lot? On top of this the council told Kumar that he didn't qualify for a rates reduction!

There wasn't much I could do about Waltham Forest's double Dutch plans.

But on bank rates, first port of call was the PRA. Steve Coombe, who is membership and events manager, responded: "The PRA do indeed have 'preferential rates' for members with a couple of High Street banks including RBS/ NatWest. We, as an association are seeing some very high increases in charges being passed on to forecourt retailers by banks and therefore one of the major commercial benefits of being a PRA member is to tap into our very competitive rates. Our cash deposit rate with NatWest is just 27p per £100 deposited a vast difference from the 95p on offer!"

Kumar believes he is a member through one of his supplier deals so he was certainly going to pursue this. But, for the sake of others, I asked Steve Coombe what it would cost someone to join and he replied: "There are a range of subscription fees to become a member of the PRA, but the most any singleton operator/sole trader will pay is £500 per annum.

"We would expect, on average, a retailer (1.5mlpa throughput) to save at least £2,500-plus on bank charges with our rates against standard tariffs per year!"

Well worth joining then.

Are all your staff 'legal'?

There are quite a few people in this country who are not legally allowed to be here. It is a sensitive subject but the government is weighing in a response to the Calais crisis although that is not the only route that illegal migrants take. As this is being written Immigration Minister James Brokenshire warned that businesses employing illegal workers will be hit with "the full force of government machinery".

Employers can be fined up to £20,000 per person for employing illegal workers and employers who knowingly employ an illegal worker can be jailed for up to two years.

A 2009 London School of Economics study estimated the UK had 618,000 'irregular' residents, but in 2010 campaign group Migration Watch said the figure was closer to 1.1 million.

The studies are the most recent estimates.

Why am I writing about this? Because I have twice been contacted by employees who have pointed fingers at their bosses (who work for other bosses further up the chain who no doubt are in the dark about this black market).

One of them alleged false paperwork, including forged passports and said that they were all underpaid and working as slaves in a climate of fear.

A report in The Sunday Times earlier this year said that most illegal immigrants find work in ethnic restaurants and takeaways. Between last July and September fines were imposed on 92 Indian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan restaurants and takeaways. And here is the chilling bit. Car washes, garages, petrol stations, care homes and hair salons were also fined.

The government has said that Immigration Enforcement teams will carry out more unannounced raids with bodies such as HM Revenue & Customs, the Gangmasters' Licensing Authority and Health and Safety Executive also taking part.

The cost of banking cash

Good to go?

I had an email from Subash Patel saying that he was thinking of getting into food to go and asking about various regulations.

The most important recent legislation came into force last December. You now have to use packaging or notices to point out ingredients that can cause allergic reactions. The list of allergens is 14-strong and goes as follows, in alphabetical order: celery, gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide. So, not simple and you may not have even heard of a couple of them. Lupin not the flower in this case, but found in flour. And sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites) is an ingredient often used in dried fruit such as raisins and prunes.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 2 October 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East120.5363.90127.17119.00
East Midlands120.03127.76118.80
London120.3757.90128.81118.85
North East119.80129.71118.46
North West120.19127.87118.63
Northern Ireland119.22125.23117.53
Scotland120.2463.80126.78118.50
South East120.7259.90129.39119.48
South West120.39128.00119.02
Wales120.0459.90126.47118.61
West Midlands120.0865.90128.12118.84
Yorkshire & Humber119.73127.02118.57

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