RMI Petrol chairman Brian Madderson has spoken out in condemnation of the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) for its “complete lack of engagement with industry” in the lead-up to the Unite ballot results on Monday, which recommended strike action by fuel tanker drivers.

The association has repeatedly tried to engage with the government over the growing risk to the UK’s ‘energy resilience’, for which DECC has prime responsibility, and on Monday Madderson wrote to Rt Hon Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, voicing his concerns.

“Unlike their counterparts at DEFRA, we have received no consultation, no guidance and no briefing notes from DECC,” said Madderson. “Instead, there has been a proposal floated by the Cabinet Office on Sunday to use Army personnel to drive tankers and a short, hurriedly arranged emergency meeting of the trade associations on Monday. What kind of serious, professional emergency preparation does this constitute?

“At the very least, official advice could have been passed to retailers asking them to slowly build their stocks. In some cases, this may have posed financial difficulties and so the government should have been prepared to provide short-term bridging facilities at no cost to enable purchasing higher than usual volumes to proceed.

“The government has failed to recognise the implications of the destruction of large parts of our retail fuels network,” added Madderson. “Perhaps now the seriousness of the situation will force them to re-consider their strategic direction insofar as the UK’s energy resilience is concerned.”

The UK’s energy resilience has been exacerbated by falling site numbers and high-priced fuel forcing many independent retailers to reduce stock levels due to cash flow difficulties. Increasing taxation and increasing global prices for crude oil have combined to send the cost of each tanker-load of fuel soaring to over £55,000, according to RMI Petrol, with refined stock levels at UK forecourts at an all-time low.