"Get fuel, quick!" is Government's pre-strike advice

The Government has urged motorists to fill with fuel now or risk being immobile over the Easter weekend.

The advice - not explicit, but implied when a Downing Street spokesman said drivers should take "prudent" steps to ensure they have enough fuel - has raised fears of a run on fuel stations over the next few days.
The Government spokesman encouraged people to consider a "contingency" plan if fuel tanker drivers go on strike.

There's no official strike date yet, but the 2,000 fuel tanker drivers of the Unite union have voted to strike and can do so at seven days' notice - meaning an Easter walkout is on the cards.

Terms and conditions, and health and safety concerns, are driving the dispute.

According to The Sun, David Cameron is this afternoon meeting with the Government's emergency group, COBRA, to work out how to smooth the country's progress through the strike

There's still time for the strike to be called off, but it's looking increasingly likely. If the 2,000 drivers do walk out, it means 90% of the distribution of fuel in the UK will stop at a stroke.

It's thought that the government has deliberately suggested that drivers stay topped up as a tactical measure - if motorists fill their tanks now, the fuel stations will be replenished as normal before the strike. That means well-stocked garages during the action, plus fewer drivers drawing fuel.

Labour has suggested that the Government's advice is "the height of irresponsibility" because it could see petrol stations bled dry unnecessarily.

However, the opposition party is in a politically precarious position if the strike happens, because the Unite union is the party's biggest donor; Ed Miliband is yet to comment on the potential action.

The AA has urged drivers to avoid panic buying, though. "There is plenty of fuel to go round and the situation will only deteriorate if motorists rush unnecessarily to filling stations," said chief Edmund King. "No strikes have yet been announced and there is enough fuel out there as long as people do not fill up unnecessarily."

Bigger fuel station chains are better equipped to deal with irregular buying and delivery patterns - but for independent garages the strike could be catastrophic.

With a tanker of fuel costing around £55,000, some smaller garages do not have the cash flow to stockpile fuel to cover the strike period. This could mean redundancies and, at worst, closures.
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