Bielby: “Autumn Statement will concern a lot of wholesalers”

FWD Chief Executive responds to the Autumn Statement with an analysis of the various measures announced by the Chancellor, and their likely impact

James Bielby said: “This Autumn Statement will concern a lot of wholesalers. With inflation at 4.6% and food price inflation at 10.1%, little support has been made available for a vital sector which is tasked with keeping the nation fed.” Below, he gives FWD’s analysis of the impact of the different measures announced.

National Living Wage

“Against the context of increasing costs in every single discipline and no further financial support from the Treasury, wholesalers will need to find space within budgets to contend with the single biggest rise in the National Living Wage. FWD support paying vital workers in the wholesale space fairly, but against the incredibly tough economic backdrop, and with no support from government, this is a very challenging requirement.”

Business rates

“We welcome further business rates support for organisations across hospitality, retail, and leisure settings, but once again it is unclear whether the wholesale sector will be eligible for support. There is no retail, hospitality, or leisure without supply from wholesale, and yet the Treasury seems unable to grasp the full value of our sector.”

Public sector food

“By requiring the public sector to operate within the constraints of the Autumn Statement, this essentially means that inflation will need to be absorbed. This will result in reduced budgets for public sector food, which will be to the detriment of both wholesalers and the vulnerable people being fed in education, hospital, and care settings. Wholesalers are struggling in the here and now, and public sector budgets should be adjusted to account for this. Whilst we welcome the re-commitment to increase the education budget, this will not come into effect until 2024/25. Wholesalers are struggling in the here and now, and public sector budgets should be adjusted to account for this.”

Alcohol and tobacco duty

“FWD members are large alcohol and tobacco excise duty payers, both directly and indirectly. We welcome the freeze in alcohol duty until 1 August 2024; this freeze is essential to combat rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. However, increases in duty rates, as we will see for hand-rolling tobacco, will have implications for the illicit market and its knock-on effects for revenue lost by the Exchequer, undermining public health and legitimate business objectives. The government should focus resources on enforcement activity to remove criminals from trading in illicit and non-duty paid goods.”


“We appreciate the government’s commitment to advancing apprenticeships by earmarking £50 million to stimulate training in growth sectors and overcome barriers to entry in high-value apprenticeships. While we welcome this investment, it’s imperative that the government addresses the challenges associated with the current apprenticeship levy. Our members contribute hundreds of millions of pounds into the apprenticeship pot but since the levy only allows funds to be spent in an overly restricted way, wholesalers cannot use the money to fund any relevant courses – effectively rendering it a tax on businesses. To encourage greater investment in skills and training businesses need increased flexibility in allocating funds to train staff. Expanding the apprenticeship levy into a wider skills levy will give businesses more flexibility to allocate the money to train staff and will bring significant benefits to the wholesale sector.”

Net zero

“We welcome the announcements to allocate £4.5 billion to bolster British manufacturers on their path to net zero. The diverse funding package will be instrumental in supporting the decarbonisation of businesses nationwide, and we specifically welcome the targeted support for the automotive industry and the zero-emission automotive transition. While we are grateful for the support provided, it’s evident that we need a more comprehensive approach which considers infrastructure, skills and provides long-term clarity to business through well-defined roadmaps and strategies. With this, we look forward to reading the outcome of the Winser Review, recognising the potential to deliver the critical grid upgrades needed for the decarbonisation of our economy. The commitment of FWD and its members to achieving net zero targets by 2040 remains resolute; nevertheless, realising this ambitious goal requires stronger and more strategic support from the government.”

alcohol duty Autumn Statement business rates Government James Bielby National Living Wage net zero public sector tobacco Training