It’s encouraging to see that petrol retailers aren’t fighting their corner alone. Or so it would seem when you’ve got someone like Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow, speaking as though he really understands the vulnerabilities of the service station business.
He was our guest speaker at last month’s very successful Top Indies dinner, and he impressed the audience of predominantly top independent retailers with his apparent grasp of their concerns. Of course, business rates are currently right at the top of everyone’s agenda, with the punitive and potentially destructive increases under way. In an effort to counteract these diktats from the Valuations Office Agency Philip Dunne has filed an Early Day Motion, and led a House of Commons debate on the potentially devastating effect of the new Business Rates on petrol stations. It’s all grist to the mill in keeping the subject aired, and hoping that someone will take note. Like, for example, Barbara Follet, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who certainly seems in need of some education about the consequences of the current formula for calculating Business Rates rises in the forecourt sector.
But while it’s one thing to make those responsible realise the error of the system in private, it’s another to make them do something about it without losing face in public. Let’s hope there is a succesful outcome. At least a continuing onslaught such as is being driven by Philip Dunne, and the tireless and charming Brian Madderson of RMI Petrol does offer some hope. There is also a possible suggestion of a way around the problem by separating the shop and car wash businesses from the forecourt.
With an election around the corner, the air is going to be thick with political activity. I suggest you join in getting to know your local MP. Otherwise as a sector you risk being out in the cold.