Surrey Council is on the brink of declaring a “major incident” to give key workers priority access to petrol stations as the fuel crisis spirals out of control.
Under the Designated Filling Station Scheme, only marked emergency services or NHS vehicles would be allowed to use certain filling sites.
The council’s drastic action comes as a teaching union warned that teachers should have priority access to fuel amid supply issues or risk further disruption to children’s education.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, called on ministers to take action to ensure teachers and support staff can get into work and schools and colleges can remain open.
He warned fuel shortages are expected to cause “serious difficulties” for education provision.
Dr Roach said: “For many teachers, the use of public transport is simply not an option, with many schools in areas that are not easily accessible other than by using private vehicles.
“The government must urgently consider making teachers a priority group for access to locally available petrol and diesel fuel supplies.
“Without such intervention, many teachers will struggle to get to their places of work on time, adding to the daily uncertainty and disruption faced by children and young people.”
Surrey County Council is considering prioritising emergency workers independently of central government by declaring a “major incident” – defined as an event “beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations, and is likely to involve serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.
Surrey County Council’s Conservative leader Tim Oliver told the PA news agency on Monday night that the local resilience forum, which includes the local NHS and police, will consider the drastic move on Monday evening.
“We have been experiencing the same problems as everyone else so we are deciding whether or not to declare a major incident which would give the forum powers to prioritise key workers,” he said.
On Tuesday, he suggested officials were yet to make up their minds. “Surrey has not declared a major incident but like the rest of the country is facing significant disruption to fuel supplies,” he said.
“In keeping with its business continuity arrangements, the Surrey Local Resilience Forum on Monday to discuss the ongoing fuel supply challenges across the County. This is a significant incident that requires coordination with all our partners.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and will work together to ensure vital public services can continue to be delivered.
“We would ask that residents please remain calm and resist any urge to stockpile fuel. When purchasing fuel, please consider not filling your tank but instead limiting how much you purchase, and of course wherever possible leave your car at home at walk, cycle or use public transport.”