16 November 2000 | Mark Whitehead
Top purchasing and supply management professionals are backing Tony Blair's tough stance against the fuel protestors, according to a new poll.
The survey, carried out by CIPS among its senior members across the public and private sectors, also found that just-in-time inventory management is now being questioned.
One respondent, a senior purchasing director in the NHS, reported a 500 per cent increase in stocks held to cope with another possible crisis. A group purchasing manager in the food sector reported a 30 percent increase in stocks, while a university reported a 100 per cent increase in the amount of fuel and other essentials being held.
The CIPS survey, which was carried out last week, followed warnings after September's protest that stockpiling fuel or other goods could make the UK uncompetitive.
The results came in the run-up to the threatened second protest by hauliers and farmers. The first blockade almost brought the nation to a standstill.
The survey also revealed concerns over the environment. One senior procurement manager in the financial sector commented: "There appears to be a bunch of vested interests hiding behind a public cause and it is vital that the government sticks to its principles and invests in education, health, pensioners and the environment rather than giving cash to commercial operations that help to pollute our cities and countryside."
As SM went to press, chancellor Gordon Brown appeared to have succeeded in dividing protestors and heading off further protests with a cut in 3p a litre on the tax on diesel and a further 2p on ultra-low sulphur petrol, the new cleaner fuel that the government hopes will be in wide use by April next year.
Hauliers' complaints about competition from overseas were answered with a proposal to require foreign trucks entering the UK to buy a tax disc.
Commenting on the survey, Roy Ayliffe, CIPS's director of professional practice, urged the government to make sure fuel protests were not allowed to disrupt supply chains again.
"The main priority for purchasing and supply managers is to maintain supply of goods and services into their organisations, so disruption of any kind is the worst thing possible," he said.
Opinion was divided on whether the government should cut fuel taxes. Some respondents said it should be reduced by as much as 30p. But several said other factors - such as the differences in the tax structure in the UK compared with continental Europe - should be taken into account.