Westminster, London

Ask FWD: What does wholesale want from government?

With a new prime minister set to shake up Number 10 in the coming months, FWD looks over what actions wholesalers would like to see the new person in charge taking to help

What’s the one action that government could take that would most help the wholesale channel?

It’s funny you should ask. We put this exact question to the 340 delegates at our annual conference a few weeks ago. We gave them a list of choices, including extending business rates relief for wholesalers, investing in public sector distribution and aligning the UK with EU trading regulations.

And what came out on top?

Well, in third place was wholesalers and suppliers would like the government to introduce long-term visas for international workers to come over and fill the gaps in labour that are slowing distribution throughout the supply chain.

At number two, our poll said a VAT cut on food, which is an excellent way to reduce the cost of living for the least well off.

It would mean changing price files and shelf labels, but other than that it’s easy to implement. But in a time of already high inflation, stimulating spending may not be the most economically sensible thing to do. And there’s no guarantee it would be passed on to consumers anyway.

We said that with the hospitality VAT cut during Covid. Is it likely?

Tax cuts are definitely on the menu but more likely to be aimed at businesses – to stimulate growth, rather than struggling consumers.

Chances out of 10?

With the current government’s focus on ‘delivering Brexit…’ let’s say two.

This isn’t going well!

Well actually, maybe it is because the number-one action our delegates identified the government could take is to reduce fuel duty. For an industry that lives on its wheels, spiralling fuel costs clearly have a disproportionate impact and those costs end up on everyone’s shopping and eating-out bills. It’s easy to implement, it’s effective, it’s proportionate and it helps keep prices down in all those shops and restaurants that are facing their own mounting costs.

And will it happen?

We’re certainly making the case for it. With the rising price of fuel, the government could significantly cut fuel duty and still make more than it would have expected even a year ago in tax revenue terms. So it’s no loss for them and a huge help for us. Fingers crossed.

cost of living covid-19 FWD Government hospitality Liz Truss Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tax VAT wholesale