Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards writes her monthly column for The Wire.
I would like to begin this month’s column by addressing the facts around fuel shortages, as I know that many people are anxious about how long this problem will go on for.
What we have seen in the past few days is a huge surge in demand for fuel (180% of normal demand last Saturday, for example). This is the inevitable result of the way in which private remarks from BP were selectively leaked to the media and then reported.
In fact, as discussed at that meeting, only five of BP’s 1,200 petrol stations in the UK were closed on any given day. But from the way it has been reported in the national press you would have thought only five were open. It is not surprising that people, constantly bombarded with messages about shortages, have gone to fill up their car, concerned at being left stranded.
In response, the Government has suspended competition law, allowing fuel companies to work together to get supplies to every part of the country. Ministers have made use of the government’s reserve tanker fleet – driven by civilian drivers – to support the resupply of filling stations, and 150 army drivers are still on standby to drive tankers if needed.
Most importantly, the number of fuel stations with supplies is increasing rapidly and more fuel is being delivered to petrol stations than is being sold. It is really important we carry on as normal and do not panic buy fuel.
On a similar note, some constituents have written to me on the issue of rising energy prices. Of course, if you have an issue with your energy provider or are worried about rising prices, please do get in touch with me so I can try to help.
Some people may be able to claim Winter Fuel Payments or get help with their bills under the Warm Home Discount Scheme, so I would encourage anyone who might need assistance to check whether these apply to you. The Department for Work and Pensions have now launched a £500 million fund to help vulnerable households with essentials over the coming months as the country continues its recovery from the pandemic.
If your energy provider goes bust, you can find a very useful explainer of what will happen next, including information about your consumer rights and any credit you may have with your energy company, on the Ofgem website here.
Health and Social Care Levy
As I said in my contribution to the Health and Social Care Levy Bill debate, raising taxes is not something I take lightly, especially when we have just been through the most unprecedented 18 months in living memory.
However, the social care problem has simply not been properly addressed by successive governments. What the Prime Minister has laid out is a clear pathway to meaningful reforms, giving certainty to families of people with complex, long-term needs.
Most importantly, it will protect individuals and families against unpredictable care costs, which I know is something that many constituents have told me they’re worried about.
I think it’s time we recognise the extraordinary work that health and social care staff do; protecting and supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It’s only right that we build a health and care system which reflects the brilliance of the staff working within it, and this settlement will help towards this aim.
Gravel pit update
As many readers will know, I’ve joined forces with local residents to back a campaign to stop a gravel pit from being built on next to Attenborough Nature Reserve at the Mill Hill site in Barton in Fabis.
These proposals will damage the beauty and amenity value of this ecologically significant site, disturbing wildlife, reducing biodiversity and destroying a long-established habitat. This is clearly in contrast with the government’s environmental priorities.
Last week I took residents’ concerns directly to the Environment Agency who are a statutory consultee for the planning application. They assured me that they will be looking into campaigners’ concerns and queries about the site. I am seeking further meetings with government bodies including Natural England to raise the case with them.