Local democracy takes a hit as council and other public bodies in Milton Keynes respond to coronavirus outbreak

Frustrated shoppers forced to substitute kitchen roll for toilet paper could have dire consequences on the sewage system in Milton Keynes, an expert has warned.

A mass switch to kitchen roll or baby wipes could easily cause the pipes to become blocked and chaos would result, said leading supply chain academic Professor Richard Wilding from Cranfield School of Management.

He said: “We are seeing shortages of toilet paper but worryingly also shortages of paper kitchen towels and industrial paper towel used for example, in garages and workshops and other wipe products.

“If kitchen towels, baby wipes or industrial papers are used as a replacement for toilet paper, our sewage systems could readily become blocked with the resulting chaos and increased health risks associated with this. Ultimately, water companies may not have the infrastructure and equipment to unblock the sewer system."

With shelves empty of toilet roll all over MK, panic buyers' attention has switched to kitchen roll. And this too is now being rationed to two or three rolls per customer in major stores.

He said: "As shortages in pharmacies and chemists start to bite, consumers are reported to be turning to building hardware suppliers for face masks and body suits. This means builders, tilers and plasterers or other workers who regularly use masks for protection against airborne particulate matter, for instance, are struggling to get hold of this equipment from certain suppliers.

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“Yet the construction industry relies on this protective equipment for people to carry out their work – as employers, companies can’t expect their staff to continue without it and regulations place a duty of care on every employer to provide the appropriate safety equipment. Without such equipment employees are unable to work and companies are subsequently unable to undertake work. UK companies who supply these sectors are starting to feel the strain on certain protective equipment items and this needs to be monitored very carefully.”

The professor added: “The issue where a seemingly unrelated supply chain channel causes disruption is known as a ‘supply chain parallel interaction’. In this case, the consumer supply of medical face masks is drying up, so customers turn to industry sources.

"Similarly, the substitution of kitchen towels for toilet paper will have a knock-on effect of disrupting the sewage treatment supply chain – causing shortages in their supply chain as a knock-on effect and a disrupting a seemingly unrelated industry."

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