Several petrol station operators have written to their local crime commissioners protesting about comments by Home Office minister Norman Baker where he blamed retailers for drive-offs, and the PRA is encouraging others to do the same.

Baker told the Financial Times that operators should install pre-payment pumps and suggested that if they did not then police should not be expected to respond to thefts.

Eddie Bright, director of Top 50 Indie Brobot, which has 23 sites in the East Midlands, wrote to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire Sir Clive Loader.

In his letter he said: “Clearly Mr Baker is looking at savings in the Police budget by eliminating the crime of bilking from their work load and passing responsibility for criminal behaviour onto the retailer…

“I would like to ask for your confirmation that the Police Authority refute Mr Baker’s comments as being ignorant and ill-advised at best, or dangerously out of touch with reality at worst, and that the Police will continue to detect crime no matter what the circumstances.”

Mal Blake, who owns Oasis Services in Long Riston Hull, wrote to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside, Matthew Grove, and said: “Please would you confirm that you do not agree with his stance. He clearly has no understanding of the business and the pressures forecourts are under from the supermarkets especially rural ones like myself.

“Forecourts are in decline as I am sure you have seen in this region and irresponsible comments like this from a Minister will only encourage the criminal element to perpetrate more bilking, causing more site closures and putting innocent people (employees) on the dole.”

PRA chairman Brian Madderson told Forecourt Trader: “What the minister is suggesting would cause immense harm to the industry and I would encourage all PRA members to write to their local crime commissioners and local MPs to make their feelings heard.”

Madderson also revealed that the bilking will be at the top of the agenda of a meeting about forecourt crime with the Home Office on August 20.

In addition to officials from the Home Office, PRA and ACS a number of retailers and police officers have been invited to the roundtable event.