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Christmas in danger of being cancelled as labour and stock shortages bite


Staff shortages, particularly in the road haulage industry, and increased bureaucracy following Britain’s exit from the European Union are in danger of causing “a second crap Christmas”

There might be no need for the Grinch to steal Christmas this year as it looks like the event might be cancelled (fat chance) owing to shortages.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has reported stock levels as a percentage of expected sales declined to their lowest level in August since the lobbying group began tracking retail industry trends in 1983.

The CBI said the pandemic has played its part in disrupting the global supply chain, as has Brexit.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) corroborated this view, noting that a shortage of lorry drivers is causing stock shortages across the construction and hospitality industries.

There has been the well-publicised shortage of chickens available in fast-food outlets such as Nando’s and more recently a dearth of milk shakes in McDonald’s restaurants in the UK.

“There is a real focus now on how to make sure everyone gets what they need for Christmas. We regard this week, the third week of August, as the week we begin to ramp up for the peak across these sectors,” explained Neil Carberry, the chief executive of the REC.

“Even with a large number of people coming off furlough in August and September, it’s likely that high demand for workers will continue to cause shortages through the autumn,” Carberry told the Daily Telegraph.

Andrew Sentance, a former member of the ‘s monetary policy committee, was in agreement.

“It’s quite striking, I don’t think we can dismiss this as a flash in the pan,” Sentance said.

“Now that lockdown has been eased we’re seeing a truer reflection of the impact of Brexit and issues building up before the pandemic. We could see this persisting for longer than people expect,” he added.

Amazon, not noted for its largesse towards its hired hands, is reportedly offering £1,000 “golden hellos” – nothing to do with its “comfort break” policies – to warehouses across the UK, while British Gas is said to be offering a £3,000 signing on bonus to gas engineers.

Earlier this week, Richard Walker, the managing director of , the frozen food specialist, called for heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers to be temporarily added to the “skilled workers” list to help alleviate the shortage of drivers since the UK exited the European Union.

“We’ve a lot of goods to be moved around for Xmas,” Walker tweeted, adding, “Nobody wants a second crap Christmas”.

Yesterday, the British meat industry urged the government to allow prisoners – British ones, not EU ones – to be used to solve a labour crisis in the industry.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, which represents butchers, abattoirs and processors, has been exploring how it can employ more prison inmates and ex-offenders.

“Much of the food industry is facing a recruitment crisis. The advice we have received from the Home Office is that the UK’s domestic labour force should take priority; however hard we and many of the members have tried, staffing remains a challenge,” said Tony Goodger, speaking on behalf of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers.

Today, builders’ merchant Grafton said there had been significant pressure on the supply chain this year because of shortages of core materials at various stages including aggregates, cement, plasterboard, treated timber, sheet materials, landscaping, steel and plastics.

Supply chain pressures also contributed to significant price inflation, particularly in core products including timber, and it estimated that overall cost price inflation was circa 7.5% compared to the first half of last year.

It warned that its supply chains will continue to be disrupted to some extent in the coming months.

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