Portsmouth City Council calls for key worker priority at fuel stations

Portsmouth City Council has called for key workers to have priority at fuel stations during the current fuel crisis.

By Freddie Webb
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 4:55 am
Queues at the Shell petrol station in Eastern Road, Portsmouth on Friday. Picture: Marcin Jedrysiak
Queues at the Shell petrol station in Eastern Road, Portsmouth on Friday. Picture: Marcin Jedrysiak

The council is hoping for further action as long queues snake around several petrol stations in Portsmouth, but prioritisation plans will not be localised and will only be implemented nationally if the government gives the go ahead.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said he was frustrated by the slow progress, after a meeting planned with a central government contact yesterday didn’t happen as they didn’t turn up.

‘We are without direction at the moment because our government contact didn’t turn up,’ he said.

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Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘We’ll hope to get some more information, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not.

‘At the moment, the council’s view is that we need a plan to make sure that the NHS and people who are vital to public services are able to get priority. but we can’t implement a plan without the support of central government, but so far, they are not indicating that that is what they want to do.’

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A shortage of HGV drivers has caused the spate of panic buying which has seen restrictions on fuel purchases across Portsmouth from certain stations.

The council’s emergency planning group has already defined key workers – including NHS staff, care home workers and the police – as those who need prioritised in their view, and how they will be guaranteed fuel.

But Mr Vernon-Jackson said this plan will ‘sit in a filing cabinet’ until central government approval, and was disappointed by that decision.

‘We do need to make sure that we are prioritising fuel to people who need it most,’ he said.

‘Any bill should be implemented as soon as possible as it’ll take time to put in place.

‘The government need to get a grip on this, and get a solution.’

The fuel crisis has had varying impacts on key services across the county.

Cheryl Hadland, the owner of several nurseries for Tops Day Nurseries, said that although most of her employees and food deliveries are unaffected, as they rely on greener transportation, certain key workers need priority for wider societal benefits.

‘It would be nice, but so far were pretty much ok, because we’ve already taken steps to reduce our diesel and petrol consumption and we’re glad that we’re on that path.

‘But for nursing staff where there’s no public transport, it’ll be critical.

‘If nurses and key workers don’t get priority, then people who have children won’t be able to go to work either, because they won’t have anyone to look after their children.

‘It’s not just our bit of society, everyone is going to be effected by that.

Other health workers are similarly concerned.

Roger Batterbury, chairperson for Healthwatch Portsmouth, said local people’s access to health and care services will be effected if key workers don’t have access to fuel.

‘We are concerned that key workers and other sectors of society on whom patients, service users, carers and families rely are at risk of running out of fuel as the forecourt shortages continue which could impact badly on local people’s access to health and care services.’

The fuel crisis hasn’t hit every public service in Hampshire though.

Zoe Wakefield, chair of the Hampshire Police Federation, saidthe police are coping well.

‘At the moment it hasn’t been too bad, it’s been manageable. We’ve managed to get every marked police vehicle fuelled up and no emergency situations have been effected by the fuel crisis,’ she said.

‘Some officers who struggled to get to work were helped by colleagues, but we haven’t been badly effected.’

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