This is not simply a ‘survey’ but calculations from the real-life payroll transactions of almost 8,000 employees at nearly 900 petrol sites during a single week in September. Hence, we’re confident the results are as close as anyone can get to knowing the real pay picture. But please bear in mind the following points:

- The pay rates shown are the average hourly rates paid by each site. Consequently when we refer, for example, to the highest average site rate in the South East as being £6.31 per hour, that does not necessarily mean that the highest-paid employee in the South East is paid that amount.

- We haven’t attempted to analyse or separate such factors as night shift, weekend or holiday pay rates. It is quite probable that regions with a significant number of 24-hour sites will show higher average rates of pay than those where most sites close at night.

- We have not separated full- and part-time employees, which may cause quoted rates to appear lower than those including only full-time employees.

- We have excluded any employees not paid on an hourly basis, that is salaried staff paid a fixed amount per week/month/year, since there is no ‘hours worked’ figure for them. It is therefore quite likely that our survey excludes most site managers.

- We do not process ‘casual wages. All our data refers to gross pay, subject to normal tax and NI deductions, as notified to us by the employer at each site.

The findings, briefly:

- The national average pay rate is now £4.70 per hour, up 2.8 per cent on last year’s figure of £4.57 – the rise between 2001 and 2002 had been over five per cent.

- The South East (excl Greater London) remains the top-paying region at £4.99 per hour, an increase of 1.8 per cent on last year (2002 was £4.90 per hour).

- Pay rates in the South West and in Greater London are equal this year, at £4.84 per hour.

- The largest percentage increase in average pay was in Scotland at 4.5 per cent (up to £4.57 from £4.37).

- The lowest paying region remains the North East at £4.36 .

- The South East, (excl Greater London) shows the smallest increase in wage rates – followed by the Midlands at 1.9 per cent.

- The widest range of site-average pay was found in the South West; the highest paying site in the database paid £7.83 per hour, whereas the lowest in the region this year paid only £3.84 per hour.

- The lowest site-average found in the database was in the North West, at £3.77 per hour.

- The region with the highest average number of hourly-paid staff was Northern Ireland (11 employees per site), which reflects the relatively large size of forecourt shops there. Most other regions showed a consistent eight or nine staff per site, the average for the whole UK being 8.7.

This year’s increase appears low compared to the 5.2 per cent hike recorded last year. Looking at the last five years’ figures our crystal ball suggests that just below £5 per hour would be next year’s average wage rate.

Thanks to Andrew McNicholas at EKW/PAYePeople for use of its data.