Town ran dry amid panic at the pumps

PETROL stations ran dry across Boston during a three-day petrol panic and one councillor has blamed ‘stupid’ and ‘scary’ Government messages for whipping up problems for the borough’s motorists.

The busy Asda petrol station in Lister Way and Esso in John Adams Way were among those cleared out of fuel at times during a three-day rush from Wednesday to Friday amid fears of a tanker strike.

Many other stations suffered from long queues and Midway Garage at Sibsey had to prioritise its stocks for NHS vehicles on Friday.

Some drivers were waiting for as long as 40 minutes to fill up and the frustrations boiled over for a customer at the Applegate station in Sleaford Road at about 10.30pm on Thursday night, when police had to be called to a heated exchange.

Officers said two customers were shouting and refusing to leave in a dispute with staff behind the counter.

The Government came under fire after Cabinet Minister Francis Maude suggested drivers could fill up a jerry-can in case of a strike and energy minister Ed Davey suggested it would be sensible to keep cars two-thirds full.

They were speaking about a possible tanker driver strike over health and safety conditions and pay even though no industrial action had been called.

Coun Paul Kenny, leader of the Labour group on Boston Borough Council, argued the crisis had been talked up to divert attention after a bad week for the Government, with rows over ‘Cash For Access’ to the Prime Minister and VAT on pasties in the headlines.

Coun Kenny said that was particularly bad for an area such as ours, with residents reliant on cars because of poor public transport links.

Coun Kenny said: “I was really disappointed that they put out the scary messages that they did. It created a vacuum in Boston for a couple of days where people were hunting around looking petrol. It was really stupid.

“In a rural area like Lincolnshire we are too vulnerable for the Government to go and hype this sort of thing up. The last thing we need to be doing is having a petrol crisis.”

Coun Kenny met with tanker drivers in Grantham on Friday night and union bosses are due to hold talks on the dispute today (Wednesday).

Boston and Skegness MP Mark Simmonds called on drivers not to panic last Thursday and blamed the UNITE union’s threat of a strike for the problems caused in the borough.

Mr Simmonds said: “The situation last week, which saw many motorists across the UK panic buying fuel, was caused by the unnecessary strike threatened by the UNITE union.

“It is vitally important that they now enter talks constructively. The most constructive thing they could do would be to call off the strike entirely which would take any additional pressure off the system.

“The Government is continuing with contingency plans in case of strike.

“It is absolutely vital we take the necessary steps to increase our resilience, to minimize any potential impact on emergency and essential services.”