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NEWS ROUNDUP OF HOW THE FUEL CRISIS IS AFFECTING COUNCILS

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WALES HIT HARD BY SHORTAGES ...
WALES HIT HARD BY SHORTAGES

Councils in Wales have implemented their contingency plans, as many areas have seen local authority staff pressed into service to keep front-line care provision available to the needy. Refuse collection has been one of the first services to go, reports The Western Mail, which carries a roundupof the situation in various council areas.

The Yorkshire Post (p6) carries roundups of the situation in the south, northand westof the county.And Scotland's councils were last night in crisis talks over the best way to ensure that essential services are kept going in the event of fuel shortages, reports The Herald.

FUEL SITUATION NEWS UPDATE FROM EDINBURGH

An emergency planning co-ordination team of City of Edinburgh Council staff and other agencies has been convened.

David Hume, director of corporate services, the City of Edinburgh Council, said: 'The situation is continually changing and we are working to ensure continuity of council services. We have already instructed all departments to approve only those vehicle journeys that are absolutely essential and we are now in the process of identifying our priority services and ensuring that essential supplies can be delivered.

'Our own staff are affected by this situation and we have taken the step of closing most Council office buildings at 4pm each day (see list below) until further notice, to allow them to make use of the limited public transport service. However we will ensure continuity of essential services.

'The issue of staff getting to work is also being reviewed and plans will be put in place to ensure that those involved in delivering essential services have transport facilities available to them to get to their place of work.

'We will be keeping people informed of any disruption to services, as soon as the information becomes available, using Radio Forth bulletins.'

School - Drylaw Special School will be closed on Thursday. Every effort will be made to keep all other schools open. An update letter will go out to parents on Friday about next week

Housing - offices will ensure a skeleton staff until 5pm to deal with calls and pre-arranged appointments

Social Work- is hoping to provide as normal as service as possible

Museums, galleries and monuments - will close one hour early at 4pm

The City Art Centre - may not open on Saturday

Central library and community libraries - will close early at 4pm: Saturday openings will go ahead as normal unless otherwise notified

Mobile libraries and resource vehicles - are withdrawn from Thursday.

Refuse collection - are hoping to run a normal service

Street cleaning - unlikely to respond within one hour: Rapid Response is suspended

Trading Standards - services disrupted but all emergencies will be dealt with eg animal health, petroleum

Environmental Health - only essential duties will be carried out

Public Health - toxic fumes and flooding investigation will be dealt with

Pest control - rats, fleas and wasps/bees treatments will be carried out

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YORK'S LORD MAYOR TAKES THE BUS

Lord mayor of York Shân Braund was pitching in with the city's efforts to save fuel by taking the bus to a civic function.

Councillor Braund, responding to City of York Council's decision to direct all fuel supplies towards essential services, hopped onto the council's popular Park and Ride service to attend a function at Bishopthorpe Palace in the south of the city.

With the civic car securely garaged the Lord Mayor, in her chains of office and accompanied by her husband and consort Martin and civic officer Jim Pennock, hopped on the Park and Ride bus in the city centre and travelled to the Askham Bar interchange.

There she met Sheriff of York Mr Barrie Ferguson and shared a car with him to the function at Bishopthorpe Palace - home of the Archbishop of York.

Councillor Braund said: 'Because York is so well pedestrianised I already walk to many civic functions and I also frequently walk to the Mansion House in the city centre from my proper home a couple of miles away.

'But we have a number of civic functions we did not want to cancel because of the fuel dispute and I thought it would be good to show that we can all do our bit by using public transport.

'In York we have an excellent network of buses and an excellent Park and Ride service and thankfully the First York bus company and the council have secured enough fuel to keep services running - great news for regular users and people who can+t get enough petrol for their cars.'

David Clark, chief executive of the council, reassured York residents that while the council was suffering no short term problems, the council would be diverting all its fuel resources to ensuring frontline services such as schooling, home care and refuse collection were maintained.

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CAMDEN MAYOR GOES ELECTRIC TO BEAT FUEL SHORTAGE

The fuel crisis may be biting but Camden mayor Heather Johnson is determined it won't drive her from her duties.

For Cllr Johnson has taken to using an electric pool car to travel to official functions. The car, which belongs to Camden's environment department, is a tiny Peugeot 106 - a far cry from the Rover Sterling she is normally chauffeured around in.

Cllr Johnson said: 'I imagine it will turn a few heads when I turn up to carry out my mayoral duties. It's not what people normally expect to see the mayor in. Thankfully Camden's an environmentally friendly council and has a pool of electric cars for staff to use.'

The electric carcan travel a maximum of 40 to 50 miles before it needs recharging for eight hours at a time.

Tom Lewis, her trusty chauffeur, had to undergo training before being able to drive the electric car.

He said: 'I think it's great. It may not be as grand as the usual mayoral car, but to all intents and purposes it's not much different to driving a petrol engined car. I reckon they'll catch on.'

At the time of writing Camden currently has around eight days of fuel left to deliver services such as meals on wheels, taking the elderly and vulnerable to day centres, collecting recycled materials, home to school transport and taking meals to schools.

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BRECKLAND LEADER ATTACKS GOVERNMENT FOR FUEL TAX STANCE

Statement from Cliff Jordan, leader of Breckland Council

'Why does the government think that it is acceptable for some of the poorest people in the country to be paying the most tax?

'Breckland has household incomes£3,000 below the national average. We are one of the most sparsely populated areas in Britain and we have to travel for health, education, and to get to work. There is little public transport and there has been a real decline in local services, village shops, post offices, pubs, schools, everything taken for granted elsewhere.

'We depend on cars in a way that urban residents do not. A recent health survey in our area showed that our residents give up things like dental treatment to keep their cars on the road.

'Many families are now spending more on fuel than on food for their children. This cannot be right! The government needs to think again about the impact of excessive fuel tax on rural areas, businesses and farming, all desperate to survive.

'Lame excuses about the extra tax being needed to pay for education and the NHS just doesn't wash. Respected financial experts have calculated that the extra V.A.T. received from the increase in oil prices could cover an 8p per litre reduction in the price of fuel. Is the government suggesting that this unexpected VAT 'windfall' was part of its plan to fund education and the NHS?

'The fuel price escalator was for the environment not for extra taxation. This government is using the emotive claims of NHS and education to justify the hike up in taxation. All I can see this policy has done to the people who live in my area is put them under unreasonable financial pressure when many were struggling to start with.

'Putting excessive tax on fuel will only increase hardship especially in rural areas and will very likely put many UK Hauliers out of business. The work will be taken by companies from mainland Europe with a potentially more damaging environmental effect particularly since fuel in other countries isn't always as clean and environmentally friendly as our own.

'In Breckland people need their cars to survive, so unless they are given a real alternative they will always suffer at the hands of the chancellor who is insensitive to the needs of rural communities.'

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