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Fuel and Labour Shortages – CBI Calls for COBR-Style Action 

24 September 2021
 

As the UK experiences supply shortages from labour to CO2 to fuel distribution, the UK’s biggest business group is urging the government to empower its emergency task force.

This is to centralise its efforts to tackle these urgent issues and action policy responses for immediately securing the UK’s economic recovery. 

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) praised the establishment of a special task force aimed at curbing driver shortages, supply chain disruption and wider labour concerns under Cabinet Office Minister Stephen Barclay, but said the time had come to elevate both the nature and power of this group.  

Director-General Tony Danker is calling for temporary visas as one of several measures needed.

After queues at fuel stations across the country this week, government ministers are allegedly to meet on Friday (24 September) afternoon to discuss supply problems.

 

"Government is right to keep up the pressure on companies to adapt and not rely on immigration long-term, but temporary visas are the only way to alleviate the disruption of shortages in critical skilled parts of the economy in weeks and months instead of years."

–Tony Danker 

Director-General, CBI

 

SAGE-Group Style Action Needed  

 

The inspiration behind the CBI's suggestion is the "success of the government’s approach during the pandemic", where scientists on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) worked alongside ministers co-designing rapid-fire solutions.

Consultations with CBI members in the past week reveal sharply increasing material costs and shortages of key manufacturing components, with producers now facing rocketing energy prices. 

Latest business surveys show concerns over labour shortages are historically high, with three quarters (76 per cent) of businesses reporting access to labour as a threat to the UK’s labour market competitiveness. Similarly, record numbers of consumer services firms expect labour shortages to hold back both investment and business expansion in the year ahead.

The CBI suggests the new task force must have a remit for immediate intervention and appoint representatives from industry to gather immediate insight and shape policy solutions. 

Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, said: “After speaking with hundreds of business leaders this week it’s clear there’s a total mindset shift from growing to coping. This is now a major threat to our recovery, and the government needs to step up its response to a new level of both speed and boldness.  

"Government is right to keep up the pressure on companies to adapt and not rely on immigration long-term, but temporary visas are the only way to alleviate the disruption of shortages in critical skilled parts of the economy in weeks and months instead of years. Getting skills programmes right immediately is key to ensuring that these measures are only needed temporarily. 

“Establishing a crisis management taskforce to move quickly – with both business and government around the table – will ensure Government is far more informed about the nature and scale of the challenges; can formulate responses fast; and is able to get the support of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to take action required. We stand ready to support the government to do this.”  

“But this is as much about opportunity than threat. We can be one of the fastest nations in the world to respond to this global surge in demand. If we can unblock these constraints together, we can race ahead in terms of recovery and growth.” 

 

HGV Driver Crisis

 

The BBC estimates that the UK is short of about 100,000 HGV drivers, due to the pandemic and Brexit.

There is strong public support for a relaxation of immigration rules to tackle the HGV driver shortage crisis, and other labour shortages, including the Road Haulage Association.

They are calling for truck drivers to be included on the Shortage Occupation List as a short-term measure to ease the pressure on the UK supply chain while a UK-based workforce is trained up.

Picture: a photograph of a BP petrol station forecourt 

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 24 September 2021

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