The week before last, I went to the House of Lords with KCC’s Leader Paul Carter and my Cabinet colleague for Transport, Nick Chard. We were there to launch our latest campaign – “Enough is Enough” which calls for an end to the countless days of French industrial action which necessitates the parking up of cars and lorries on the M2 and M20 when Kent Police have to implement the costly and inconvenient Operation Stack. We were joined on the platform by Lord Tony Berkeley, Chairman of the Rail freight Group and Theresa Villiers, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.
Before an audience which included MPs Steven Ladyman, Hugh Robertson, Roger Gale, Michael Howard and Damian Green, along with representatives from Eurotunnel, the Road Haulage Association, P & O Ferries, the Freight Transport Association, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Port of Dover and a host of other interested parties, we made our case.
My job as Cabinet Member for Economic Development is to be an advocate for businesses both large and small, and that’s precisely what my Backing Kent Business campaign has been about. Operation Stack costs haulage operators £1million a day, and with ninety nine percent of these hauliers being small to medium enterprises, it’s no surprise that there are 5 times as many lorry drivers claiming unemployment benefit this year than last year. Every time Operation Stack has been invoked this year, it’s been as a result of industrial action on the French side.
The costs are extraordinary – for Kent Police alone the ninety officers deployed to marshall delayed HGVs cost upwards of £15,000 each time. For the hauliers, it’s £40 an hour for each HGV parked on the M20, and since the delay counts against the drivers’ tachometers, the European Working Time Directive means that employers often have to send out relief drivers to take over the rig when the jams clear. in April this year alone, the cost of Operation Stack to the UK economy and haulage industry was around seven and a half million pounds – this can’t be fair.
Enough is Enough. Operation Stack is impacting on Kent’s residents, on Kent’s tourism, on Kent’s economy. It risks inward investment to our county, and causes misery and inconvenience to our residents. The need to incur Operation Stack whenever there’s action by the French contravenes Article 28 of European legislation on the free movement of people and goods, and it has to stop. That why Kent County Council is standing four square behind the Federation of Small Businesses to campaign together against this nonsense.