policy

Driver shortage causes UK supply crisis

A shortage of lorry drivers is resulting in fresh produce being dumped or left to rot in cold stores, while supermarket shelves and restaurant plates go empty, produce suppliers and retailers warn.

The driver deficit – the worst in over 20 years, according to driver recruitment agency Driver Require – is the result of an exodus of EU drivers post-Brexit and government failure to recruit a replacement workforce. The coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented driving tests and training for over a year, as well as a hike in driver costs, has exacerbated the shortfall.

Haulage companies are therefore struggling to deliver goods – either imported or domestically produced – to UK retailers and restaurants, causing delays and product losses, and empty plates and shelves, distributors say.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, is understood to have informed the UK Government’s Department of Transport that its suppliers are being forced to bin nearly 50 tonnes of fresh food every week because there are too few lorry drivers to transport produce to stores.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) is so concerned that it has urged the government to consider having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.

“It’s shocking, but it’s true. The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in coldstores,” Tim O’Malley, managing director of major UK produce distributor Nationwide Produce, told FPJ. “In all my years in fresh produce I’ve never seen anything like this. Goods are being produced, but not delivered.”

The current situation – dubbed a national crisis by some suppliers – is predicted to get worse as the UK continues to open up after lockdown, and demand increases from hospitality and retail.

Brexit clearance issues and a global shortage of shipping containers are further deepening transport problems for imported produce, one source told FPJ.

“The driver shortage has reached crisis point for some of our members and we believe it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases,” said FWD chief executive James Bielby.

“With the estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to limit the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability issues.

“We’ve asked the government to re-instate the temporary extension of drivers’ hours (from 9 to 11) which was in place last year but ended recently. Other proposals we are putting forward include ending furlough for HGV drivers, temporarily waiving requirements for medical certs and CPC for those which have run out, and using army drivers to deliver to vulnerable communities.”

Meanwhile, in an open letter to the FPJ, Nationwide Produce’s O’Malley urged produce industry suppliers to work with hauliers and customers to get through this crisis.

“I would urge you not to shout at your hauliers and threaten them with bills, as that will get you nowhere – work with them to find solutions,” he wrote. “Customers will have to be far more flexible on delivery times. We also need to stop hauling fresh air around the country. Full pallets and full loads are what we need in a crisis like this.”

O’Malley added that customers need to be more flexible on date codes to allow direct deliveries from abroad. “I’m sure this will eventually lead us all to adopt better practices, but for now we need to work together to find a way through this crisis,” he said.

Alex Veitch, general manager – public policy at Logistics UK, added: “With a large pool of potential candidates available, owing to the nation’s higher unemployment, Logistics UK is urging the government to make HGV driver training affordable, accessible and attractive for all. 

“Our 2021 Logistics Report shows that 29 per cent of logistics businesses anticipate that they will be unable to fill vacancies for HGV drivers this year; a further 14.5 per cent expect long delays before filling a role. With the logistics industry in urgent need of these workers, Logistics UK is urging the government to include training for HGV Drivers in their list of courses funded through the National Skills Fund to reskill potential employees and help recruit them into the industry.

“Logistics UK is also urging the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to maintain its fast-track programme to catch-up on at least 30,000 driving tests that were postponed due to COVID-19 between March and December 2020; this has left thousands of potential HGV drivers waiting in the wings when the UK needs them most to support every facet of UK PLC.”

Letters: Need to leave UK is urgent as the Brexit woes pile up

THE Brexit[1] disasters are coming thick and fast. As climate change accelerates, the Australian trade deal will fly inferior beef and lamb around the world to displace higher-quality Welsh and Scottish products, driving small farmers out of business. The RSPCA has warned Australia’s animal welfare standards are far below those of the EU and begged Boris Johnson not to sign the agreement. Australia allows barren battery cages, sow stalls, hot branding, sheep mutilation and doesn’t require slaughterhouse CCTV or food, water or temperature control for live animal exports.

Meanwhile, soft fruit crops will rot in the fields thanks to a shortage of EU seasonal workers. A Fife soft fruit and veg farmer, Iain Brown, said Scotland[2] is falling short of the 10,000 fruit pickers needed to bring in this summer’s crops. Down in England’s new lorry park in Kent, Winterwood Farms has seen applications for seasonal work drop by 90% over the last two years. From the end of June, people who haven’t got pre-settled status can’t work. It’s no good hoping domestic workers will travel long distances to reach the fields, set up camp and engage in physically demanding work in all kinds of weather.

The haulage industry in Scotland has reported a shortage of 11,000 drivers due to Covid, Brexit and recent tax changes, which is hitting the supply of goods to shops and businesses and increasing prices.

The Scottish hospitality industry is reeling from staff shortages after EU nationals left and many domestic workers sought alternative work during the pandemic, forcing many businesses to limit customer numbers that will result in business[3] failures.

Westminster has never cared about Scotland. We can make our own decisions only when we restore our independence. In the meantime, we can pelt rotten fruit at Mr Johnson next time he dares to venture north.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.

THE HARD CASH JUST ISN’T THERE

I AM grateful to Frances McKie (Letters, June 16) for her detailed list of recent Scottish economic and other successes.

UK exports in April 2021 were £49.4 billion and appear to be heading back to their pre-pandemic levels. There is no evidence so far that Brexit is doing any damage, however much flak continues to be aimed at the referendum result. Even the Australians think that a flood of exported meat into the UK is unlikely, so the fears of the Scottish farming community may well be unfounded. I will be buying Scottish beef, lamb and pork from my local butcher regardless. It is good to have a choice though.

How foreign-manufactured wind turbines help Scotland’s fiscal deficit is a calculation I would very much like to see. The 2020 rise in inward investment projects is very welcome. Notice in the latter case that the press around this success fails to mention the monetary value of the investments concerned. Doing so would illustrate how little is its contribution in relation to a pre-pandemic budget deficit in 2019/20 of more than £15bn.

It is indeed ironic that Ms McKie chooses to highlight the growth in UK national debt over the last 10 years. All efforts to contain or even reduce that debt have – unless memory serves me incorrectly – been furiously derided in Scotland as (choose your adjective) “Tory austerity”.

Ms McKie’s closing paragraph sums up the Scottish problem. It is easy to talk up a positive but vague and soft focus vision of Scotland. You can clearly see, though, that the hard cash just isn’t there.

Grant Ballantyne, Paisley.

ENGLISH-ONLY VOTES DO AFFECT US

JILL Stephenson (Letters, June 17) claims that Michael Gove’s proposal to end English Votes for English Laws (Evel) is intended to appease the SNP. Not so for several reasons, of which the most important is Mr Gove (and Boris Johnson’s focus) on a UNITED Kingdom which is now described, for instance, by the Commonwealth as “an island country that sits north-west of mainland Europe. It is made up of mainland Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and the northern part of the island of Ireland”, when just 12 months ago it consisted of “three countries plus the ‘province’ of NI”. For the UK to become the focus, a law[4] such as Evel is a contradiction and an obstacle to Mr Gove’s ends.

In any event, Evel conceals its own anomalies, as there are some issues which appear to apply only to England, but which have implications for Scotland. For instance, if a motion is put to the House for NHS spending in England only, it may appear that Evel should apply, but this ignores the fact that any spending variation in England will have implications for the Scottish block grant.

Ms Stephenson then goes on to over-generalise wildly, claiming that “English MPs have no input into matters affecting only Scotland” – but with their numerical dominance they have plenty of input into tax, trade policy including the recent agreement with Australia and Brexit, and defence. Indeed, Mr Johnson’s majority in the House of Commons (80) exceeds the number of MPs sitting for Scottish constituencies for any party (59).

She is correct that devolution throws up significant anomalies as Tam Dalyell forecast, but when one part of a political union has the sort of numerical dominance that England enjoys, the democratic deficit for the other constituent parts (OK, Mr Gove, not nations) is substantially more significant.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

COMPARE THE TWO GOVERNMENTS

STRUAN Stevenson (“The SNP Government’s catalogue of mistakes will soon come back to haunt it”, The Herald, June 17) and Guy Stenhouse (“Action, not words, are needed to solve ferries fiasco”, The Herald, June 14) bleat week after week about the shortcomings of the SNP Government. Much of what they say is true, but their writings would have more credibility if they balanced the SNP’s failings with those of the Westminster Government.

Apart from the successful vaccine roll-out, I find it hard to think of any successes of Boris Johnson’s Government. However, like Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Mr Johnson seems to be in continued favour with his largely English support.

If I can suggest a title for Mr Stevenson’s next epistle, it would be “Compare and contrast the failures of the two governments’’.

Sam Craig, Glasgow G11.

PROOF THE UK IS NOT A NATION

I HAVE tried to be tolerant in the interests of free speech and have regarded the incessant anti-SNP barrage of letters[5] by Dr Gerald Edwards as an amusing distraction from serious debate. It does become a bit tiresome at times and I have to respond today to his assertion (Letters, June 16) that “the need for independence” is in some way linked with the SNP or Brexit. The case for independence is totally linked to the plight of our Scottish nation which has no opportunity to elect a government of its own choice. Neither the actions of the SNP nor the consequences of Brexit will change the situation; only the people of Scotland can rectify this democratic deficit.

Neither Britain nor the UK is a nation and anyone who doubts this should have their doubts dispelled this evening (June 18).

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.

DO NEW LAW OFFICERS BACK INDY?

THE Scottish Parliament has backed a motion seeking agreement to recommend to the Queen that Dorothy Bain QC and Ruth Charteris QC be appointed the new Scottish law officers; respectively lord advocate and solicitor general. Were both candidates asked for their opinions about the legal status of an independence referendum held without the consent of the Prime Minister? I’m sure both will have been asked, and surely both will have given an affirmative answer? Would they have been chosen otherwise? However, neither question nor answers will be acknowledged; we can expect evasion and fudge of a high order.

Another current item of legal news is the recent death, on May 31, of James Crawford, Professor Emeritus of International Law at the University of Cambridge. Prof Crawford was scathing about the Scottish Government’s claim that an independent Scotland would remain a member of such international organisations as the UN and the IMF. He claimed that the “overwhelming weight” of precedence pointed to Scotland being treated as a new state; meaning having to renegotiate some 14,000 separate treaties and applying afresh to join international bodies. Professor Crawford’s opinion does not die with him.

William Durward, Bearsden.

Read more: Australia deal shows PPE lessons have not been learned[6]

References

  1. ^ Brexit (www.heraldscotland.com)
  2. ^ Scotland (www.heraldscotland.com)
  3. ^ business (www.heraldscotland.com)
  4. ^ law (www.heraldscotland.com)
  5. ^ letters (www.heraldscotland.com)
  6. ^ Read more: Australia deal shows PPE lessons have not been learned (www.heraldscotland.com)

India: Flying high

Overview
“Should we drive, take a train, or fly?” was once a prevalent question across every Indian household. To a large extent, it still is. But times are changing. Historically, taking a flight has always been the most expensive method of transporta…

Gloucestershire is hotspot for this illegal motoring offence

Gloucestershire motorists are more likely to doctor their number plates to evade speed cameras than drivers anywhere else in the country.

According to a new survey the county is a hotspot for drivers carrying illegal modifications to their vehicles and has nearly twice as many number plate offences per head of population as the next place, Northern Ireland.

Doctoring plates is often done to avoid speed cameras and automatic number plate recognition but insurers say such illegal modifications might save you points on your licence but invalidate your insurance policy.

Read more: Lorry crashes through level crossing barrier[1].

A freedom of information request to police forces across the country by Comparethemarket.com[2] uncovered the shock data for last year.

In total there were 808 number plate offences in Gloucestershire, which worked out at 1,268 offences per million people.

The next worst area for number plates was Northern Ireland where police caught 1,301 drivers, 687 per million people.

But offenders could be in for a shock because a new law going through the House of Commons could mean a clampdown on those who use fake designs to stop the cameras getting the information.

Conservative MP Andrew Griffith wants to close a loophole in the law which he believes allows anti-social road users to “defy” speeding rules by making the number impossible for cameras to read. This offence carries a fine but no points.

But although Gloucestershire motorists were more likely to be caught with illegal plates, they did not score as badly as many others for noisy exhausts, illegally tinted windows and the wrong lights

Overall there were a total of 925 illegal modifications caught by police in Gloucestershire , which works out at 1,452 per million people.

But in the East of the country, officers were much more likely to prosecute over lights, windows and exhausts.

Get all your local traffic news, powered by In Your Area[3]:

Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance at comparethemarket.com said: ” Modifications tend to fall into two categories: performance or cosmetic, but any modification, no matter how minor, should be reported to your car insurance provider.

“Lawful modifications can increase car insurance premiums, so it’s best to check with your provider before making any changes and there are some providers who specialise in modified cars.

“Modifications which are against the law are likely to invalidate any type of car insurance policy, so do your research beforehand.”

References

  1. ^ Lorry crashes through level crossing barrier (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ Comparethemarket.com (www.comparethemarket.com)
  3. ^ In Your Area (www.inyourarea.co.uk)

Brexit a double-edged sword for the UK labour market

Five years from the seismic Brexit referendum of June 2016[1], the UK labour market is feeling its consequences. We have seen a notable shift in international job search patterns on Indeed UK. The news is mixed, with both positive and negative developments.

EU jobseekers are less inclined to search for UK jobs, with lower-paid positions seeing the greatest fall-off[2]. These are jobs most likely to be affected by new skilled worker visa rules.

We see evidence of a clear Brexit effect, rather than just a pandemic travel effect. Falling searches from the EU contrast with rebounding searches from non-EU countries and from Ireland, whose citizens are unaffected by post-Brexit immigration policy thanks to the Common Travel Area. Non-EU interest in higher-paid jobs has actually registered a substantial increase.

The changes in international jobseeker interest in UK positions suggest that the shift in the UK’s immigration regime is working very much the way the government intends — to “reduce overall levels of migration and give top priority to those with the highest skills”.

For some employers and recruiters, this spells a need to rethink recruitment strategies 

For some employers and recruiters, this spells a need to rethink recruitment strategies. For those that previously relied on EU workers to fill lower-paid jobs, such as cleaning, social care, distribution, childcare, food and hospitality, that is likely to mean an increased reliance on domestic candidates. This could be problematic in some cases, given a historical reluctance of home-grown workers to do some types of jobs and the fact that some jobs (lorry driving for example) involve lengthy training periods. Where recruitment difficulties prove persistent, the answer is likely to ultimately involve reviewing pay and conditions.

Concerns over skill shortages in a range of industries from social care to haulage have generally been met by the government rejecting calls for increased flexibility

Concerns over skill shortages in a range of industries from social care to haulage have generally been met by the government rejecting calls for increased flexibility. The Home Office has repeatedly emphasised that employers should focus on hiring and training British workers. The need to recover pandemic job losses among the domestic workforce has only reinforced this position.  

It’s a very different story for those recruiting for roles paying higher salaries, including tech, engineering, finance and medicine

It’s a very different story for those recruiting for roles paying higher salaries, including tech, engineering, finance and medicine. Rising non-EU interest in UK jobs means they are well-placed to tap into new talent pools. Several current and former Commonwealth countries have notched some of the biggest increases. Jobseekers from India and Pakistan are particularly interested in software development jobs, while we’ve seen rising interest in nursing jobs from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, job searches from Hong Kong spiked after the UK government offered citizenship to around three million residents of the special administrative region in July 2020 and have stayed high since.

For the UK labour market, the changes we’re seeing underline that Brexit is a double-edged sword. Jobseekers have reacted to the new immigration system, while British employers wanting to hire from abroad will benefit or suffer depending on the type of work they offer. Some will need to be creative in how they respond and think carefully about how they attract the workers they need from pools of candidates who may have different characteristics to those they previously relied on. 

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Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at Indeed

President Macron Under Pressure From Desperate French Fishermen Begging For Help

President Macron Under Pressure From Desperate French Fishermen Begging For Help
President Macron Under Pressure From Desperate French Fishermen Begging For Help.image: Wikimedia

President Macron Under Pressure From Desperate French Fishermen Begging For Help.

President Macron is under intense pressure from French fisherman who are now at the stage they are begging for help over fishing rights.

Finally, the UK has wrestled control from Brussels with EU vessels now having to apply for licences for access to any of Britain’s waters.

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Having left the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) when the Brexit transition expired, the UK is now an independent coastal state and is totally responsible for the management of its own territorial waters.

The area comprises up to 12 nautical miles from the shores of Britain and the Exclusive Economic Zone, which stretches 200 nautical miles.

French politician Xavier Bertrand, who represents fishing communities in the Hauts-de-France region, has claimed hundreds of fishermen in France have been waiting since January 1 for licences.

The serving president of the regional council of Hauts-de-France, said: “I say one thing to the government, to the ministers. One more effort. Do you know what should be done? Grant licences to our fishermen who are waiting to be able to fish in the six-12 mile area of English waters.”

As part of the post-Brexit trade deal negotiated by the Prime Minister, EU fishing quotas will be reduced by 25 per cent over the next five years and last week, the first annual quotas for 70 fishing stocks were negotiated with the EU.

The new deal is estimated to be worth around £27 million (€31.43 million) more to the UK economy, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The total value of UK-EU fishing opportunities for the UK in 2021 is approximately £333 million  (€387.51 million), amounting to around 160,000 tonnes.

The UK and Australia sealed the first major post-Brexit free trade deal on Tuesday, June 15.

Brexit Britain and Australia have finalised the broad terms of the pact – just months after the UK was finally freed from the shackles of the EU.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, held talks in London on Monday night to rubber-stamp the new partnership, which is set to increase trade between the two nations above the current £14 billion (€16.29 billion).


Thank you for taking the time to read this article, please remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News[1] website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories.

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References

  1. ^ The Euro Weekly News (www.euroweeklynews.com)