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Panic buying fuel is leaving carers unable to visit Suffolk's most vulnerable residents, councillor Beccy Hopfensperger warns



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Carers in Suffolk have been unable to provide urgent care to some of the county's most vulnerable residents as they can't get fuel or are waiting in long queues for hours, a councillor has warned.

Beccy Hopfensperger, who is cabinet member for adult care at Suffolk County Council, posted on Twitter yesterday evening to urge people not to panic buy fuel.

She said: "PLEASE PLEASE stop panic buying fuel, we have carers who are unable to provide urgent essential care to our most vulnerable residents because they can not get fuel or they are waiting in queues for hours #panicbuying #showsomecompassion."

And this morning the West Suffolk councillor told BBC Radio Suffolk's Sarah Lilley of the situation in Bury St Edmunds yesterday and said: "There were queues as you've seen all throughout nationally, the forecourts were running out of particularly it seemed to be diesel as well.

"In my capacity as cabinet member for adult care at Suffolk County Council, I've been contacted by our in-house carers to say they can't get to care appointments because they either can't get petrol or they're stuck in a line for four hours which means missed appointments."

She added: "It's affecting key workers badly, they have quite long stretches in between appointments which they rely on travelling and they rely on the fuel to get to those essential appointments to provide that essential care."

Queues for fuel at a petrol station in Suffolk. Picture: Submitted
Queues for fuel at a petrol station in Suffolk. Picture: Submitted

This has a knock-on effect for those who are waiting for a visit from carers, Mrs Hopfensperger said, as well as the carers themselves.

"There are a lot of people needing that urgent essential care. Sometimes the carer is the only person they might see during the day," she added.

"If a carer cannot get fuel to travel from one place to another or is sitting in a queue waiting for fuel, then that appointment gets missed because they have more than one appointment a day, so once one appointment gets missed, they're late and it soon backs up."

She said her message to people travelling to the forecourts this weekend was: "All I can say is just please, please, just think about whether you really do need that fuel or whether you're just buying it to be on the safe side, please just only get the fuel if you need it, because there are key workers that can't get the fuel and the most vulnerable people in our society are suffering because of it."

Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger
Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger

Meanwhile, there have been further reports of long queues at filling stations today after chaos reported at some yesterday, with some having to close early doors as they had run out of fuel.

One resident told Suffolk News that Sainsbury's petrol station in Ipswich's Warren Heath had opened up at 6am but by 7am, it had to close as they had run out of fuel, despite having a delivery yesterday and closing last night to save fuel for today.

And the president of the AA has said panic-buying rather than supply chain issues is driving the shortage of fuel at some petrol stations.

Edmund King said the problem should pass in a matter of days if drivers just stick to filling up when they need it, adding 'there is plenty of fuel at source'.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr King said shortage of lorry drivers had only been a 'localised problem' earlier in the week.

His words come ahead of an expected announcement by the Government that visa rules for foreign lorry drivers will be relaxed.

“We were in discussions with Government ministers last night and we talked to the major fuel companies, and we can reiterate there is not a problem with supply at the source,” Mr King said.

"Once people have filled up, they won’t travel more than they normally travel, so this strain on the system should ease up in the next few days.

“Earlier in the week, there were some problems with the supply chain, as we know, due to a shortage of some lorry drivers, but that was only a localised problem.”

Mr King said the shortage had been exacerbated by 'people going out and filling up when they really don’t need to'.

“If you think about it, 30 million cars out there, if they’ve all got half a tank (and) if they all rush out to fill up the rest of the tank and the tank is about 60 litres, that will put a strain on the system,” he said.

Mr King said the issues were unlikely to last because the supply chain is not being disrupted by ongoing problems such as industrial action.

“The good news is you can only really fill up once – you’ve got to use the fuel, so this should be a short-term thing,” he said.

“It’s not like the fuel crises in the past when the supplier was hit by strikes, etc.

“So, once people have filled up, they won’t travel more than they normally travel, so this strain on the system should ease up in the next few days.”

While fuel shortages are unlikely to last, Mr King said a shortage of lorry and HGV drivers was an ongoing issue.

“The market is stretched, so I think that is a broader issue that is affecting the supply chain, not just the petrol and diesel, but retail as well.”

Mr King said the Government has freed up a number of driving tests for HGV drivers in training but said he did not know the specifics of further action it plans to take.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk