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Don’t Blame Brexit For Driver Shortages

Don’t blame Brexit for driver shortages – our brainless bureaucracy is the real culprit

Harold Macmillan said that the thing he feared most in government was, “Events, dear boy, events”. In this, he was right. It is seldom policy issues that determine how governments are viewed by the public, but how they handle unexpected events.

The Government is finding just how difficult it can be to retain control while being buffeted by the unexpected.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is the HGV driver shortage affecting the supply of fuel and food. Some broadcasters and journalists have lazily labelled this as a Brexit problem without looking any further, yet this is simply untrue. This is a European-wide issue and the culprit is coronavirus. The origins of this chronic shortage lie in the long-term implications of locking down so completely.

The total European shortfall of HGV drivers is now more than 400,000. For example, even in Poland it’s 124,000 drivers, in the UK it’s 60,000, and in Germany it’s about the same as the UK but forecast to rise to 185,000 drivers by 2027.

The reality is that, all over Europe, when countries locked down many drivers went home and many more were furloughed, then retired. This was made worse as all testing of new drivers was stopped, something which could have been avoided, particularly if the authorities had used avilable Covid PCR or lateral-flow tests to allow prospective drivers to qualify. To give you a sense of how chronically stupid the bureaucratic thinking was, the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency also stopped motorcycle testing – even though those being tested were all alone on their bikes.

What we now see are the aftershocks of lockdown decision-making beginning to buffet us. There has clearly been little forward thinking or planning.

The Confederation of British Industry, which quickly blamed Brexit for the current shortages, instead should recognise that industry leaders themselves must shoulder a significant measure of blame. I recall before Brexit, when as Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions I questioned why hauliers did so little to invest in their industry by training drivers, particularly when the shortages were already becoming known, the hauliers responded that British people wouldn’t do the job. In response, my department bought a number of places on courses to test their theory, and found that they were filled by applicants in days, and well over three-quarters subsequently passed. The hauliers’ theory was wrong: there were plenty of people with drivers licences who would have loved to train but couldn’t afford the cost of the course. The reality was that cheaper drivers from overseas led to short-term decisions.

Some years ago, when I left the Scots Guards, I chose to qualify as an HGV driver. I remember well the endless journeys around Liverpool during the leisurely two-week course. Although some years later I didn’t renew my licence, I remember how, even then, I could see the scope to compress the course into a matter of a few days, something which should have been done years ago.

From the short-sightedness of the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency to the failure of the hauliers to invest in British drivers, it is clear that the driver shortage could have been alleviated. I’m not sure how visa changes will help much now, when all Europe is also searching for drivers.

On top of that, with energy prices rising and energy companies going to the wall, we discover that this year was the first year we have issued a North Sea exploration licence since 2016, and that we have the smallest strategic supplies of gas in Europe. The PM’s announcement that investing in British, not Chinese, nuclear is the way ahead is correct, but the reality, as we try to achieve net zero, is that we will still need fossil fuels for some time yet if we want to keep the cars running and the lights on.

With growth levels stalled, inflation set to rise to 4 per cent and Christmas looming, the Government needs to move swiftly to avoid a perfect storm. Those on the lowest incomes will bear the brunt of a cost of living rise – it’s surely time to re-think the cut to Universal Credit, or at least delay it until we know where we are in four months.

A reputation for competence is vital for a government. The handling of events, as Macmillan knew, has the capacity to damage a government’s reputation or imbue the public with renewed confidence in it. It’s in the Government’s hands to decide which.

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Terrorists mount checkpoint on Gusau-Sokoto highway, kidnap 26 travellers

UAE

Terrorists in Tuesday afternoon blocked and kidnapped over 26 travellers along the Gusau-Sokoto highway.

According to reports, the bandits blocked the road around Kwaren Kirya village under Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State and abducted all the passengers from a Toyota 18 seater bus and a Volkswagen golf vehicle.

A resident of the area who pleaded anonymity for security reasons told News Point  that the situation is getting worrisome as the bandits now block the road on a daily basis.

“As I’m talking to you now, about 30 minutes ago, these bandits have blocked another side of the road. They cleared the passengers of an 18 seater bus and a golf, the situation is worrisome because it has become an everyday thing for these people to be blocking the road,” the source said.

He expressed concern about a village called Balge along the highway which he claimed harbours suspected bandits.

The source appealed to the government to deploy security outposts around the area to checkmate the activities of the criminals

“There is a village when you pass that Kwaren Kirya called Balge, about 80% of settlers in that village are bandits,” the source added.

“There was a time they were chased out of the place but a majority of the people there were bandits. We just need government to help us and station military around the area.”

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Akeredolu’s Burial: Ondo Govt Declares 2-day Public Holiday

The Ondo State Government has declared Thursday, Feb. 22 and Friday, Feb. 23 as public holidays in honour of the late former Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu.

This is contained in a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ebenezer Adeniyan, on Tuesday in Akure.

Adeniran said the two-day holiday will allow people of the state to honour the late former governor with several programmes billed for both days.

Akeredolu died in Germany on Dec. 27, 2023 and would be buried on Friday in Owo, his hometown, according to the programme released by the family.

“The two work-free days will allow the people of the state to participate in the burial activities of the former governor,” the statement said.

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Gov. Fintiri approves N10,000 monthly allowance for corps members in the state

Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, has announced a monthly payment of N10,000 for all corps members serving in the state.

Fintiri stated this while declaring open the 2024 batch ‘A’ stream 1 orientation programme for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, deployed to Adamawa in Damare, Girei Local Government Area of the state.

Represented by deputy governor, Professor Kaletapwa Farauta, Fintiri said the payment was to cushion the effects of inflation currently being experienced in the country.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you will reciprocate this gesture by being diligent, disciplined, hardworking and committed to your various places of primary assignments for the betterment of your host communities,” he said.

Fintiri said that Adamawa remained a home away from home for corps members serving in the state.

“More so, as corps members, you are automatically bonafide indigenes of Adamawa.

“This is a privileged status conferred on you by me as the number one resident and executive governor of the state.

“I always regard you as our strategic partners in the execution of our people oriented policies and programmes, particularly on education, healthcare, agriculture and rural development,” he said.

In his address, Mr Jingi Denis, Coordinator of the NYSC in Adamawa, described the approval of N10,000 monthly allowance for corps members as first of its kind in the state and lauded Fintiri for his practical support.

He encouraged the corps members to comply strictly with all camp rules and regulations, and be obedient to the corps officials.

He said they would apply appropriate sanctions on recalcitrant corps members in line with the provisions of the NYSC Bye-Laws.

“The oath of allegiance, which you have just taken today is solemn.

“I implore you to always find time to meditate over its spirit and letters, and be guided by same throughout the service year and beyond,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that no fewer than 1,336 corps members were registered and the oath of allegiance was administered by Justice Helen Hamman-Joda of the Adamawa High Court.

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