The world has gone mad and is driving people around the bend - if there were any drivers!

Joseph Bulmer

Is it me or has the world gone totally bonkers?

It goes without saying that the pandemic has totally changed the way we lead certain aspects of our lives, probably for ever or over the next few years at the very least.

But now all sorts of other things have come into play to turn everyday life upside down.

First a jobs crisis emerges – nobody wants one! Torbay and South Devon have been especially hit.  It became a serious issue at the height of the summer season when some hospitality businesses like restaurants and cafes were faced with having to pay incentives to keep staff, reduce hours or even close.

Now we have panic buying at fuel stations because of delivery problems due to HGV lorry driver shortages, which have also led to some food going missing from supermarket shelves and even a threat to turkeys at Christmas – now that would be it!

The jobs issue is the reason the Torbay Weekly, in partnership with several local partners and companies, launched our Your Bay Needs You campaign encouraging people to take up the ever-growing number of vacancies becoming available on a daily basis.

Torbay Council leader Steve Darling and his councillor colleague Swithin Long visited a local manufacturing company just a few days ago. Jobs are still causing them major issues. They only have half the number of staff they need and they are unable to fulfil some contracts worth many thousands of pounds.

Cllr Darling wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel asking for help with the drivers’ shortage especially with employing European workers which was affected by Brexit.

He said: “I am still waiting for a formal response. I did see at the weekend they are releasing visas for European drivers and that is welcomed.

“The manufacturing company we visited have half the numbers of workers they  need but there are also problems with the supply chain for the same drivers’ reason. Stuff that normally takes days to come through is now taking weeks”

The HGV drivers’ issue has also hit rubbish collection and recycling rounds in the Bay. Cllr Darling says: “We are going in the right direction now but it continues to be a fragile situation.

“We just need a couple of drivers to be ‘poached’ for it to fall over.”

One answer to the problem is the arrival of a wagon with a nickname normally linked to a well-known drinks firm’s ‘refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’ branding. It is small so can navigate smaller roads and doesn’t need a HGV qualified driver to drive it.

Paul LeHuray, boss of the well-known and well-established Torbay Taxis firm, is also having jobs issues for a variety of reasons. They use drivers who are self-employed and are between 35 and 40 light.

Paul gives an example: “On Saturday night we had 25 drivers out. Before the pandemic that would have been 50 and two years ago 70.”

He says some drivers near retirement age and off the road with the pandemic decided not to come back. Some have not returned after being on furlough and being able to claim 80 per cent of their business and the number of European drivers is down,

Paul says: “Another issue is the lack of respect for drivers. It is the way people treat drivers. It has always been the case with drunks on a Saturday night but it has got worse. "

He thanked the council for recently reducing driver application fees from £350 to £50 which has helped and he is quick to add: “Drivers can earn good money. They are self-employed and perhaps some people are worried about doing the books but we can help with that. We can also help with getting vehicles.”

Believe it or not, there is a silver lining in this mad, mad cloud at the moment. Torbay only has half the number of  its usual army of parking ticket officers at the moment.#

PS: Please join our Jobs campaign.