WSTA urges more support for supply chain businesses

7th April, 2020 by Melita Kiely

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has written to UK chancellor Rishi Sunak with a three-point plan to better support the hospitality industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

Miles-Beale-WSTA

Miles Beale, WSTA chief executive, is urging UK chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver more support for the industry amid the pandemic

The first request asked the chancellor to immediately extend the support currently offered to the on-trade to wider hospitality supply chain businesses, many of which have seen demand drop to “zero almost over night”. However, the WSTA said these businesses are currently ineligible for the majority of the government’s support.

Secondly, the WSTA has called on the government to spread duty payments over the rest of the year from summer. The trade body argued the move would “result in no loss of revenue to the Exchequer”, but would give a “vital and welcome cash injection to businesses”.

The WSTA said this could prevent smaller businesses from going bust due to restricted trading conditions during the pandemic, and would help bigger companies keep up with payments to other firms.

Thirdly, the WSTA has asked the chancellor to permit businesses to put stocks of duty-paid wines and spirits back into excise suspense. This would then allow them to claim back duty already paid on unsold products and again add relief to cashflow issues.

‘Business reduced to zero’

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: “We have welcomed the chancellor’s efforts to date to help businesses and those they employ navigate the chaos that coronavirus has wrought – but much of the promised support has so far comes in the form of loans that are proving hard to access, take valuable time and must eventually be paid back. Many businesses see these measures as providing nothing more than a stay of execution. The chancellor needs to go further still.

“Today, we have written to government asking them to make three immediate changes that are simple, low cost and will provide immediate support to businesses in our sector. The extension of support to businesses in the hospitality supply chain – which have been almost completely forgotten despite facing the same immediate pressures – cannot come soon enough.

“Like pubs, bars and restaurants, the businesses that supply our hospitality sector have seen business reduced to zero almost overnight but are currently barred from accessing schemes like business rates relief or small business grant funding. This must change – and fast.

“Government urgently needs to introduce measures to help businesses tackle the single biggest immediate challenge – cashflow. Our proposals to implement a blanket excise duty deferment scheme and to allow wine and spirit businesses to put stock back into duty suspense, would help alleviate the cashflow crisis immediately.

“It was disappointment that our calls for an urgent suspension of duty payments for at least six months were overlooked last week, and many of the businesses we represent have had to settle a large bill whilst knowing their ability to trade will be severely restricted for the foreseeable future.

“We would urge chancellor Rishi Sunak to look again at this area and take steps to offer our sector the support it needs.”

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