Failure to cancel the 3ppl fuel duty rise planned for January will exacerbate tough trading conditions in the forecourt sector, according to independent retailers as they anxiously await the outcome of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday.

David Cox, who runs Spar Saintfield in Lisburn, County Antrim, said: “Volumes are down and margins have been very tough this year so any increase in fuel duty will only make things worse. People are already thinking twice about making journeys. Fuel is far too expensive; it’s harming retailers trying to make a living.”

George Hammond managing director, John Ryeland, agreed: “Any increase in the cost of fuel would not be appreciated by the industry, retailers or drivers. I’d like to think that the Chancellor would cancel the price increase or at least defer it and review the decision in the main Budget in April.

“While the huge differential in duty exists between the Continent and the UK, and while the cost of living is so squeezed, I just don’t think they should contemplate putting prices up.”

Jamie Wood of Mace Wigtown Road Service Station in Newton Stuart, Dumfries & Galloway said it would be counter productive if fuel duty is increased. “What everyone forgets is that fuel consumption has gone down a fair bit and for every litre of fuel that’s unsold, the government loses 60p, so an added 3p would be counter productive,” he said. “Also it’s not just 3p they would be adding, it’s 3p plus VAT so it’s more like 4.5p.

“There’s a general downward in fuel consumption and a rise will only make that worse.”

Andrew Lawrence of Norfolk-based Lawrence Garages was hopeful that the Treasury would come down on the side of the motorist and petrol retailer. “We’re hoping that the rumours that the January rise will be moved to April and the April rise will be scrapped are right.

“We’re hopeful if they scrap the January increase they won’t double the increase for April but like everything, we won’t actually know until they say so.”