Delays in wholesale funding could put hospitality recovery at risk

Funds for food wholesaler business rates relief must be released urgently, as the recovery of the hospitality sector depends on this long-awaited cash injection for its supply chain, says FWD.

Wholesalers were delighted that the Treasury’s 25 March announcement of a £1.5 billion discount fund specifically named them as priority recipients of the support, which is to be administered by local authorities.

But legislation granting the relief has not yet been laid before Parliament and no money can be made available to local authorities until that has happened. After a year without sector-specific support, delays in the primary legislation could mean the wholesalers won’t be able to stock up for the surge in demand as restaurants, pubs and other hospitality venues reopen fully in May and June.

While retail, hospitality and leisure businesses are enjoying a 15-month business rates holiday, the wholesalers that provide them with food and drink were overlooked until last month’s announcement.

Wholesalers that lost up to 80% of their trade while three lockdowns forced their customers to close have exhausted their cash reserves and some now fear they will not have the cashflow to anticipate demand as Covid restrictions are eased.

“After more than a year of hard campaigning, we were absolutely delighted to finally get the business rate relief wholesalers so desperately need,” said FWD Chief Executive James Bielby.

“But we still haven’t seen the guidance on how and when they will get their money. As restrictions lift this week, wholesalers need the relief more than ever and every day of delay causes wholesalers real pain as they get squeezed by a triple hit of cashflow, credit and insurance.

“The new relief is needed right now. The Easter parliamentary recess has already delayed delivery of the support, which won’t be available until primary legislation has been laid. Local Authorities will then need to set up the schemes necessary to administer the funds.

“We urgently need the government to table the legislation, provide guidance for local authorities, and ensure businesses are able access funds as soon as possible.”

coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice FWD hospitality James Bielby wholesaler