Organisations 'at wits' end' dealing with fuel crisis

'No diesel': The BP service station in Cornard Road, Sudbury

'No diesel': The BP service station in Cornard Road, Sudbury - Credit: SUDBURY CARS

The chair of a home care body has said she is "at her wits' end" as organisations try to cope with rising costs and supply shortages of diesel amid the cost-of-living crisis. 

The home care sector in Suffolk has been particularly badly affected as carers have had to cut the number of visits to patients across the county, who will have to spend longer in hospital instead until support becomes available. 

Protestors from environmental group Extinction Rebellion have been blocking oil and fuel refineries, causing disruption to supplies at service station forecourts across the country, compounding a pre-existing crisis. 

Fuel costs have already been rising due to a number of factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chair of Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers

Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chair of Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers, said she was at her 'wits' end' with the fuel crisis - Credit: Archant

Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chair of Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers (SAICP), which represents home carers in the county, said the stress of the work combined with the cost-of-living crisis was causing staff to leave the home care sector. 

“It is one blow after another and we are sick and tired of it. It is not even worthwhile running a service anymore. I am at my wits' end now and at the point of throwing in the towel and I have been doing it for 36 years,” she said. 

She added a pay rise of 5.5% over the last couple of years was not enough and the sector was now looking to recruit overseas workers, but this was problematic due to the paperwork involved. 

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Ms Fairburn-Dorai said staff members were adapting to the diesel crisis by advising each other on WhatsApp groups of filling stations that were still stocking diesel. 

Taxi drivers and couriers have also been affected by the shortages. 

A Sudbury Cars cab

A Sudbury Cars cab - Credit: Patrick Crew

Patrick Crew, managing director of Sudbury Cars taxi service, said rocketing costs had led to his firm increasing prices for journeys outside of Sudbury, with incremental increases for any trips of more than five miles. 

The long-haul market, representing about a third of the company’s income, would be most affected due to the distances travelled to get to airports, sea ports and holiday cottages, among other destinations. 

Mr Crew said a customer who went on a cruise from Southampton had to pay £25 more to come home due to the effect of rising costs exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. 

“We have kept our local prices the same, but anything that goes out of town, there has been an incremental increase in the cost of fares because the cost of diesel has gone up dramatically,” he added. 

Courier Jeremy Hawke makes two or three deliveries a day to businesses in Suffolk, specialising in supplying goods across England and Wales. 

Although based in Devon, he has 38 drivers who deliver freight brought in by air and sea, with a hub at Heathrow airport. 

However, he said he had to pass on the rising cost to customers, resulting in prices increasing by 10-15% over the last year. 

On Tuesday, his drivers found that motorway services had run out of diesel and had to use service stations in towns instead, putting pressure on their supplies. 

“Our drivers up and down the M1 and M42 in the north found that none of the stations on the motorway had any fuel. They had to pull off into the small towns, which not only costs time, but also takes away local supplies,” Mr Hawke said. 

Other costs of running the business had also gone up and were reflected in the prices. 

“It is bad news and we have had to pass the costs on to the customer. Obviously, we are not just covering fuel charges, but everything else has gone up, including the cost of purchasing vehicles. We have had to put up prices by 10-15% during the last year,” he added.