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KEEPING VITAL COUNCIL SERVICES GOING DURING THE FUEL CRISIS - UPDATE 12.30PM

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The Association for Public Service Excellence today sought assurances that vital public services would not be disru...
The Association for Public Service Excellence today sought assurances that vital public services would not be disrupted by the escalating fuel crisis.

Following discussion with a representative of the Road Haulage Association principal adviser Andy Mudd has advised APSE member authorities that the RHA has no dispute with local councils or the users of their services.

'The Road Haulage Association have recognised the importance of council services and have no wish to see some of the most vulnerable people in our communities suffer.'

Authorities wishing to safeguard their supplies of fuel need to ensure that suppliers provide tanker drivers with original documentation showing that the fuel is destined for a local authority. Provided that drivers are able to produce such proof they will be allowed through the blockades.

Tony Blair has scrapped all of his engagements for today and is returning to London from Sheffield as police forces across the country began to act to enable the distribution of fuel around the country to resume.

Top priority for fuel are hospitals, schools, emergency services and public transport. Councils and health authorities around the country had last night alerted government that fuel shortages were already beginning to bight, reported BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Many had supplies for only 24 to 48 hours. Isle of Anglesey CC announced it was to suspend refuse collections.

John Evans, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall and president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the programme he and his colleagues had discussed contingency plans with the oil companies over the weekend and he had discussed the situation with home secretary Jack Straw during the past 24 hours.

Sir John said police officers would facilitate access and egress to fuel depots and refineries, to enable oil companies get their vehicles in and out, and to protect tanker drivers from intimidation. However, earler today, he said, police had cleared a way at one fuel facility but the drivers had refused to take out their tankers.

Police would explain clearly to demonstrators what their role was and they would try to work with them. But they would ensure there was no unlawful activity that would prevent the lawful, activities of the oil companies in distributing fuel.

If persuasion did not work, police would clear a way through for the tankers leaving and returning to their depots. They would not tolerate violent or disorderly behaviour.

Meanwhile, Wrexham CBC's management team has discussed the implications of the petrol situation on its council services.

Director of corporate services, Brian Goodall said: 'We are taking the situation very seriously and currently assessing our position as a matter of urgency. We are looking at prioritising our work for those service users who are most vulnerable, such as the elderly. It is important that we make the most effective and efficient use of our transport at this time.'

Wrexham Councilwill be advising staff to attempt to get into work if they can either by using public transport or car sharing.

The National Association of Head Teachers has written to prime minister Tony Blair.

'We have received a large number of enquiries from heads regarding the implications of the fuel crisis. Many anticipate that unless the crisis can be resolved very quickly, staff and pupils will not be able to get into school,' said general secretary David Hart.

'I should be grateful if you would, as a matter of urgency, state clearly what emergency measures the government is proposing to take to protect pupils' schooling. This is obviously at risk.'

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