“The world has gone mad” – reaction from SMEs and charity owners on the UK fuel crisis

The current driver shortage has led to supply issues across fuel, food and other retail products. Business Matters spoke to a number of SMEs across the country to gain their reaction to the crisis which range from extreme anger to outright disbelief.

Recent research suggests that the UK is short of up to 100,000 HGV drivers to deliver goods around the country so we spoke to small businesses across the whole of the UK to find out out how they were being affected:

Louise Burns, director of Tyne and Wear-based Nineteen Recruitment: “As a supplier of key workers to social care settings, the unease is starting to set in. We have already had workers contact us today to say they don’t have the fuel to get them to work. This leaves care settings without the critical staff they need to effectively care for vulnerable children and adults. Panic buyers need to stop and consider how obstructive they are being to the key workers who take care of this country. It’s unnecessary, it’s selfish, and it’s putting so many key services at risk.”

Wendy Ward of Sheffield-based charity fund-raising specialists, Let’s Save: “It beggars belief that people are so swayed by media coverage and don’t use common sense and basic manners. Why on earth would you fill your car up with petrol and jerry cans unless you are doing community work, working in emergency services or are a key worker? How selfish to take more than your fair share.”

Jez Lamb, founder of the Wirral-based craft beer marketplace, Beers @ No.42: “Inconsiderate, selfish, greedy, the list goes on. As a business that has grown through being able to personally deliver to our local customers, I’m now faced with the challenge of not having enough fuel to get around, run my business and earn a living.”

Dee Featherstone, founder of Peterborough-based The Little Sensory Box: “This whole situation is an absolute joke. I am lucky enough to work from home but my son’s childcare is not within walking distance and I can’t work if he is home with me. Yesterday, I had to get fuel as I needed to take my son to a medical appointment. Six fuel stations later while running on fumes, we managed to find one that was open. My husband hasn’t been able to find diesel and his job requires him to drive around the UK. The world has gone mad.”

Amy Baker, owner of Wisbech-based Halo Beauty and Holistic Therapy: “I have had a number of customers cancel at the last minute due to not having any petrol or diesel. Others are stuck in traffic queues because people are blocking roads waiting to get into petrol stations, and are therefore missing their appointments. 5-minute journeys for mobile appointments have taken 45 minutes to an hour to get to because the roads are blocked. This is the last thing that any business that is struggling to bounce back after Covid closures needs.”

Sarah Loates of Derby-based Loates HR Consultancy: “We’ve seen a sharp increase in staff advising their employers they can’t get to work, as they have no fuel. Ultimately it’s the employee’s responsibility to get to their place of work. That said, employers should be pragmatic and, where possible, flexible. Once the hysteria has died down hopefully we can all get back to business.”

Kate Allen, owner at Devon-based luxury holiday lettings specialist, Salcombe Finest: “Slow handclap for the simpletons. But can you really blame them when the headlines have whipped them up into a frenetic mass of petrol heads fighting over the pumps? FOMO is a very powerful emotion, and this has been one of nature’s finest displays. We have guests worried they won’t be able to drive down to their holiday in Devon, let alone make it back up the M5 via M&S for a restorative ham and mustard sandwich. They just might have to resort to the horrors of public transport where weak tea is served up hotter than the sun.”

Shirley Leader, director of Petersfield-based woman’s clothing boutique, Velvet & Rose: “Why do people do this? If this crisis isn’t rectified soon, it will severely impact business. The town centre has seemed quiet in the past day or so and it is because people are worried about travelling very far.”

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