Government have reacted too slowly to shortages - now we are seeing the impact

Covers on fuel pumps at a Shell filling station in Smithdown Road, Liverpool. Deliveries to supermar

Covers on fuel pumps at a Shell filling station in Smithdown Road, Liverpool. Deliveries to supermarkets and other businesses across the UK are facing a growing shortage of drivers with many self-isolating after being pinged by the NHS COVID app. Picture date: Wednesday July 21, 2021. - Credit: PA

Has our government fallen asleep at the wheel?

Over the last few weeks it has become increasingly clear that a crisis has been brewing.

It started with the odd item temporarily disappearing from our shelves and restaurants and pubs complaining of a shortage of staff. Initially the so-called ‘pingdemic’ masked some of the deeper causes of the issues.

But we then had reports of labour shortages in our fields and on our farms and it wasn’t long before warnings started to grow that the UK was on the verge of a much bigger crisis, should action not be forthcoming.

Sadly, little action seems to have followed and that which has been done appears to have had little positive impact.

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And so today we find the region and the country panic buying over fears of fuel running out and trying to contemplate the consequences of predictions that things are potentially going to get much worse, before they get better, unless decisive action is taken.

fuel shortage

Drivers queue for fuel at a BP filling station - Credit: Chris Bishop

The reason behind these events is an HGV recruitment crisis, which has left the country short to the tune of around 100,000 drivers.

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The Road Haulage Association predicts that around half of these gaps have been caused by the fall-out of Brexit and EU-based drivers returning home and the rest a perfect storm of retirement and people choosing to work in industries that pay more and offer a more appealing way of life.

Of course, many are using this as a stick to further beat the government with over that controversial decision to pursue a withdrawal from Europe.

That’s all well and good, but now is not the time to look back on the decisions of the past, but to work out how to solve the problems of the present and stop this from becoming a crisis that has an even wider reaching impact.

And that’s where this newspaper today accuses the government of falling down on its duty to the public.

While the crisis has grown, little to no solutions appear to have been offered as a way to improve the situation.

Granted, the government has offered sweeteners, such as quicker qualification times and apprenticeship grants in a bid to make the profession seem more appealing - but this is likely to offer a mid-term solution at best and those in the industry predict the impact would not be felt until 2022.

Something needs to be done to fix the problem now and to encourage those who are already qualified to return to the wheel and help get the country moving again.

We saw during the pandemic a drive to bring retired GPs and medics back to the profession to help through the crisis - it seems to make common sense such an approach happens here.

But, perhaps more controversially some will feel, we need to tap back into the pool of people that had previously helped keep this problem at bay - and find ways to bring some of those lorry drivers from the European Union back to work.

Haulage firms say that foreign workers in the industry should be allowed - even temporarily - the status which enables them to work in this country again.

And while that may be a bitter pill for the government to swallow, it seems to make perfect sense that this is the best starting point to move us on from this crisis and get the wheels turning once again.

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