Since returning to work following the Christmas break, I have attended a couple of events at the Houses of Parliament.
While parliament is not due to be dissolved until 30th March the General Election effect has well and truly taken hold. The normal bustle and buzz has disappeared and as our sponsored intern at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Freight – Torrie Whittington – explains on page 25, the Palace is ‘quiet, really quiet’.
Most of the rank and file MPs have returned to their constituencies, undoubtedly to prepare for what is to come.
This presents you with the best opportunity to gain access to your MP to establish where they stand on the key issues that affect your business, well in advance of the madhouse that will be the official election campaigning period leading up to 7th May.
There are several core issues that the RHA has identified. The perennial issue of fuel duty; the chronic shortage of drivers; the crisis over recruitment and the image of our industry and the severe lack of roadside facilities are right at the top of our agenda. You will undoubtedly have several other issues that affect you on a more local basis.
My biggest concern is how the new government will tackle the deficit reduction. The current administration has heeded our, and the calls of FairFuel UK to keep fuel duty frozen. But a new government with different economic priorities and policies could easily use the cash cow that is fuel duty and raise it to fund their political aims. You need to establish where your MP and rival candidates stand on this for reasons I do not need to explain.
It is unlikely that your MPs noticed the affect the shortage of drivers had during the run up to Christmas. Most don’t have knowledge of our industry, or its challenges. But with an estimated net loss of another 35,000 drivers during the course of 2015, it is highly likely the impact of this will be all too apparent next Christmas. We have been meeting with ministers and have more meetings planned over the next few weeks to secure government help with recruitment and training. But it is quite possible they won’t be in power on 8th May, and an MP near you will. So please take this opportunity to share your experiences and sound them out on how they stand on this key issue, not just for us, but the extremely negative effect it will have on the wider economy.
Ours is not the only industry that is struggling to attract young people. Getting the message across to school leavers about the value and rewards of a vocational career is crucial. There has to be a political will to steer young people in the direction of an alternative to university or a career behind a desk. Where does you MP stand on education and how aware are they of the skills shortages in the manufacturing, logistics and automotive sectors?
So this is a call to action, because you have an opportunity to educate and influence the members of the future government and an opportunity to decide which horses you will back in the race for Westminster.