In yesterday's announcement of further support for businesses in Tier 2 (high alert) areas, the chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that new discretionary local authority grants are available to the "supply chains of those serving the hospitality industry".
The Tier 2 grant system will include a 5% top-up for local authorities, which they can use at their own discretion to support local businesses, such as those in the supply chain.
Access to the Local Authority Discretionary Fund is the first time throughout the Covid-19 pandemic that wholesalers have been given specific support and follows weeks of intensive lobbying and high-profile media activity by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD).
Sunak also announced changes to the Job Support Scheme, to which any business, open or closed, is eligible. The chancellor has reduced the employer contribution to unworked hours to 5% and the minimum hours requirements to 20%, so those working just one day a week will be eligible.
In answer to a question from Jim Shannon MP about help for businesses delivering to hospitality and the public sector, the chancellor said: "We recognise the complexity of the supply chains, which is why a very generous Job Support Scheme will be available for all businesses in all parts of the country and I think that will make an enormous difference to the businesses he mentions."
FWD chief executive James Bielby commented: "This is a great win for wholesalers and will provide much-needed breathing space for those of our members whose hospitality customers are closed or barely trading. We're very pleased that Mr Sunak referred to foodservice wholesalers, as it indicates the government's evolving understanding of the vital role they play in the economic and social health of the country.
"There is still a severe threat to food distribution to the most vulnerable among us, in care homes, hospices and schools. Lockdowns at short notice leave wholesalers with unpaid bills and stock they can't sell. While the new measures will keep the trucks rolling, the hospitality industry can't come through these restrictions without further financial support for the sector that supplies it."
The FWD is calling for wholesalers to receive the same business rates relief as supermarkets and hospitality outlets and says this is the most cost-efficient way for government to prevent redundancies and business closures in the sector.