The middle way to combat drive-offs

Gunvant Patel writes from Scaynes Hill Service Station in West Sussex regarding a recent edition of this magazine where we ran an article on the PRA lobbying various government agencies for the police to treat drive-offs as a criminal matter rather than a civil matter.

He says: “We, the retailers, are stuck in the middle as police would not take any action and at the same time we cannot get anywhere with DVLA to obtain the car owners’ details. But there is a middle way which has proven very effective in the past.

“Whenever we reported a drive-off to Sussex Police they posted a standard letter to the owner about the non-payment as they had no manpower to chase the offenders. In 99% of the cases we got our money back. This is a win-win formula for everyone. It takes the same amount of time for the police to post a standard letter to the vehicle owners as it would take to write an email to us saying that this vehicle has no previous history of crime so contact DVLA to obtain the vehicle owner’s details to chase for your money. This is the least police can do as we pay (in normal circumstances) £2,000 a month in business rates which funds the police! Perhaps PRA can persuade the Home Office to get the police to chase the vehicle owners with a standard letter? After all government will get their cut from drive-off money received through the tax collection!”

Then he adds: “By the way, we the fuel retailers, are unofficial tax collectors as we collect fuel duty, VAT, student loans, Child Support Agency payments etc so we deserve something in return.”

I knew about the fuel duty, obviously, but had to ask about some of the remainder. He updated me thus: “The CSA payments and student loans are collected by HMRC through the company payroll deductions ie using the employers to collect for things that don’t concern them!”

Dumped by delivery dates

This one’s anonymous as the retailer doesn’t want to further sour his relationship with his supplier. He says: “I mentioned a while back that I had had a letter from Londis BC (Before Corona) that they were proposing to change my delivery days from Monday, Wednesday and Friday to Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Despite my (then) area manager telling me he would appeal it – he didn’t – I wrote an email to my replacement manager explaining how this would affect my business. I got no reply – apparently my replacement manager had been replaced – so I sent it to Area Manager the Third. While he was sympathetic to my concerns I still didn’t get a reply and now the new delivery days are being imposed next week.”

He sent me a copy of his email to the company setting out in detail just why this was not a frivolous request and explaining what disruption and staffing problems it would cause.

And he adds: “Since Tesco took over Londis, it has been obvious that we are now just clutter. One of the drivers told me that they are taking on delivering to all the Tesco forecourts at the same time as we are being shunted about, even though Manager the Third has denied this connection.

“We are definitely bottom of the food chain (pun intended) and Tesco seem to have no problem in reminding us. On the bright side, Charles Wilson still features prominently in the Sunday Times Rich List. Every cloud, eh?”

A fantastic crowdfunding result

What excellent news that the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) has successfully raised more than £98,000 through crowdfunding to afford a QC to expose the government cover up in the case of the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Last year I reported on forecourt operator, Phil Cowan, who was among the 560 claimants to take group action against Post Office Ltd. Phil blamed the PO for his wife’s death at the age of 47 following an accidental overdose after she was charged with false accounting to the tune of £30,000.

Since their success in court the JFSA’s founder, Alan Bates, decided on fundraising to prepare a submission to the parliamentary ombudsman. Now in a message to supporters, he says: “This means we can now go on to expose those who were so determined to bury what happened in a whitewashed ‘review’.”


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