In Britain, rising prices and shortages raise concerns in 1970s style

For the opposition Labor Party, which has struggled to attack the government amid pandemic-inspired national solidarity, hitting the Tories over the high cost of living is an easy strategy. Some analysts predict a series of humiliating setbacks for Mr Johnson, starting with the potential fallout from tax hikes.

“When articles are written in Conservative newspapers about a throwback to the 1970s, it’s a flashing red sign for a Conservative government,” said Tony Travers, professor of politics at the London School of Economics. He noted a maxim in British politics: “Opposites don’t win elections; governments lose them.

On Friday, the specter of fuel shortages seemed to be looming high. In London, long lines have formed at some petrol stations, although others have reported operating normally. Priya Dela, a cashier at a busy Texaco station in West Norwood, south-east London, said her station could run out of fuel by the end of the day.

Ragu Thangavel, manager of an Esso station in Brighton, said he was already out of diesel by Friday morning and expected to run out of fuel by evening. “There have been long lines since this morning,” he said, adding that he had not been told when his next delivery would arrive.

BP, the oil giant, said several of its stations have closed due to a shortage of unleaded and diesel-grade fuel. Tesco, a supermarket chain that operates gas stations, said it had suffered temporary closures in a small number of areas. The problem is not the fuel supply, said Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers Association, but the lack of trained truck drivers to transport it.

The challenge of finding and paying qualified drivers transcends sectors beyond fuel. With drivers retiring and replacements delayed in obtaining their licenses due to the pandemic, the labor pool has shrunk even as demand has increased. It pushed up wages. Tom Binks, managing director of Peter Green Chilled, a chilled and frozen food haulage company, said he had had to increase the wages of his fleet of about 60 drivers by 35% since April to keep them.

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