One of Britain’s most senior policing figures has said that the petroleum industry should do more to make motorists pay at the pump to help cut down on the number of drivers not paying for their fuel.

Simon Cole, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead on local policing, told the Telegraph that the industry wasn’t doing enough to stop bilking – the term used to describe motorists who drive off without paying after filling up their tank.

Cole told the Telegraph: “The petroleum industry could design out bilking in 30 seconds by making people pay up front, which is what they do in other countries.

“They don’t because the walk in their shops is part of their business offer”.

Some larger fuel companies offer pay at the pump facilities already, but in most cases this is not mandatory, and drivers still have the option to pay for their fuel once their vehicle is filled, allowing bilking to take place – with around 25,000 cases of this happening each year.

Cole also added that further efforts could be put into investigating violent crime and burglary if resources weren’t having to be placed into looking at fuel theft. Cole’s comments come as part of a growing national debate around where police time and effort should be spent amid drained resources.

It’s the second time in recent days that the NPCC has caused controversy over its views on policing, with the organisations’ head Sara Thornton saying last week that police forces should be allowed to focus on violent crime and burglaries, rather than hate crime.