Drivers forced to steal from petrol stations as fuel thefts hit record high

Petrol prices: RAC spokesperson reacts to criticism from The AA

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Fuel thefts in the UK have hit a record high with drive-off raids massively increasing. A drive-off raid is when a motorist fills up their car and drives off without paying.

The number of thefts has increased by 61 percent so far this year.

PRA executive director Gordon Balmer claimed the incidents are “going through the roof”.

He added there are at least 10 thefts reported a day.

Mr Balmer also estimated that retailers will lose £25million if the current rate of drive-off raids continues for the next 12 months.

He said: “It’s a really difficult issue at the moment — and on the increase.

“You’re looking at nearly £41 million in terms of cost to the industry of fuel either being stolen through drive-offs or people haven’t got the means to pay.”

He continued: “With the pressure on the police over the last few years, many police forces have said ‘It’s not a criminal offence.

“It’s a civil offence, so you need to deal with it.

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“And if the actual value of the crime is below £100 then we won’t send anyone out to police it.

“This has been raised by myself personally with the Home Office.”

There has also been a surge in verbal abuse towards forecourt staff by drivers angry at pump prices.

Darren Briggs, chief executive of Ascona Group, which owns 59 filling stations across the UK, said: “We’ve had a huge increase of staff abuse at forecourt level.

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“We’re getting reports virtually every week of customers being quite abusive because of what they’re seeing at the pole sign.”

He added: “It is tough out there to explain to customers how the market operates.”

The RAC, however, pointed out there is “no rhyme or reason why average forecourt prices are still going up”.

The AA added to those claims saying drivers are “being taken for fools by retailers”.

And, while Mr Briggs acknowledged that “fuel prices have gone through the roof”, he also stressed there is “huge volatility in the market”.

This in turn means that pump prices are largely dependent on the timing of when retailers buy new supplies.

Mr Briggs added that Ascona Group needs a profit margin of “at least 9p per litre” to cover costs such as wages and utility bills.

However, for the past two months it has been “lucky to make 7p per litre”, the chief executive claimed.

Mr Balmer echoed the comments saying: “We’re making very, very thin returns as we struggle with the high fuel prices.”

He insisted all retailers have passed on the 5p-per-litre cut in fuel duty implemented by the Treasury in March.

The Competition and Markets Authority has, however, launched a “short and focused review” of how much drivers are being charged for fuel after a request by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak previously told MPs that he will carefully consider calls for a “more substantial” fuel duty cut.

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