Chancellor’s support doesn’t go far enough – Bielby

The new Covid support package announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak could have “disastrous knock-on effects” for hospitality businesses if more isn’t done, says James Bielby.

While the FWD Chief Executive welcomes additional measures introduced to help companies support furloughed employees when the scheme ends at the end of October, he believes sector-specific support is needed to go further.

The impact new rules imposed on hospitality businesses could have on the industry has been well documented and this will travel up the supply chain to foodservice wholesalers too.

Bielby has called on Sunak to act now by offering business rates relief or other support to struggling wholesalers or risk a slew of job losses.

“We welcome the measures announced today, such as the subsidy to support those in part-time work and the VAT cut extension, but they still fall short of the support required for the wholesale sector, which is critical to the food supply chain, public service infrastructure and the UK economy,” said Bielby.

“Without business rates relief the sector faces widespread redundancies, which will have disastrous knock-on effects for the entire hospitality sector and food supply in the UK.”

Earlier in the week, Bielby spoke about the intense pressure facing hospitality after new Covid restrictions were announced, while he also penned a column outlining the severity of challenges wholesalers are facing before the end of the year.

At the time, he said: “Further restrictions on pubs and restaurants will lead to closures if they can’t break even and that will put intense pressure on the wholesalers who supply them, many of whom have barely recovered from the initial national lockdown.

“It’s essential that the government offers those wholesalers direct support so they can ensure continuity of food supply to vital public sector and care home customers.

“The Treasury must now give wholesalers the same business rates relief it has given hospitality outlets and major supermarkets, and extend the furlough scheme for foodservice employers for as long as these restrictions are in place.”

coronavirus covid-19 FWD James Bielby