Keyworkers should get petrol access early, unions say, as PM says crisis is "stabilising"

Unions representing keyworkers including teachers and the emergency services have demanded access to fuel supplies as the crisis at petrol pumps continues.

But many stations were continuing to run dry with some of the big groups down to around 50 per cent of their sites, leading to large queues and closures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that the situation on filling station forecourts is “stabilising” and that motorists should go about their business in their normal way.

But many stations were continuing to run dry with some of the big groups down to around 50 per cent of their sites, leading to large queues and closures.

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Yesterday, the leader of teachers’ union NASUWT warned that school closures could happen if staff weren’t given priority access to fuel.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the union, said: “Despite Government assurances to the contrary, the continuing impact of shortages on fuel station forecourts is expected to cause serious difficulties for the provision of education.

“Following many months of disruption, it is now of the utmost priority that the Government takes steps to ensure that schools and colleges remain open and that teachers and education support staff are able to get to work.

“The Government must urgently consider making teachers a priority group for access to locally available petrol and diesel fuel supplies.

“Without such intervention, many teachers will struggle to get to their places of work on time, adding to the daily uncertainty and disruption faced by children and young people.”

Scarborough-based campaigner Mike Padgham, who chairs the Independent Care Group, also called for social care staff to be prioritised.

He said: “We are facing a whole raft of problems. Only today we hear that homecare workers are struggling to visit people in their own home because they cannot get petrol.

“The Government will need to remember that care workers are just as vital as other sectors when it comes to ensuring they can get petrol.”

A senior Yorkshire Ambulance Service official said they had enough fuel for their vehicles but some staff members had faced difficulties getting their own.

And Dr David Wrigley, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, warned essential services could be hit if staff were unable to get to work because they could not fill up.

“We can’t be waiting two or three hours in a queue for fuel when we have patients to see,” he told Times Radio.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the primary cause of the crisis which began last week had been the pandemic which has led shortage of qualified HGV drivers after tests were cancelled.

However, he acknowledged that Brexit – which had cut off the supply of foreign drivers – has had an impact.

“No doubt it will have been a factor. On the other hand it has actually helped us to change rules to be able to test more drivers more quickly,” he said.