Happy New Year to you all, and no prizes for suggesting it’s going to be a difficult one! Trading conditions are tough and everyone’s got to be at the top of their game, with many facing some hard decisions. Fuel prices will continue to be a battleground. Predatory pricing and fuel duty will be ongoing contentious issues. RMI Petrol is already preparing its armoury for lobbying the government. Chairman Brian Madderson has put together an excellent paper on the case for reform of UK fuel taxation. In it he states that the damaging consequences of high fuel taxation are becoming clear for all to see, particuarly from the social justice aspect as fuel tax unfairly penalises the lower income earners and rural communities. He talks about the economic malaise as businesses close or restrict investment and limit employee recruitment. There’s also the issue of diminished tax revenues as declining fuel demand costs £3.25 billion a year. Among other things there’s the crime increase as fuel laundering and other criminal activity costs upwards of £1bn a year in lost taxation.

However it’s not all gloom for some. Having sold their shareholding in Motor Fuel Group, after many years of hard graft, we wish the former directors Sej Sejpal, Sharad Raja and Tony Head all the best in their new lives without the day-to-day pressures of the business. They have earned it. Their places are being taken by a new management team including Murco’s retail director, Jeremy Clarke, and some of his colleagues. Who can blame them for leaving a company that’s in limbo as it waits for a buyer. Hopefully something will be concluded on that front soon.

There is likely to be more consolidation among retailers in 2012, with the need for greater economies of scale and more sophisticated management. But as more oil company sites come onto the market there will be more opportunities for independents.

Plus we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year – of which more later...