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The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to namecheck wholesalers in guidance on the new funding to local authorities

Wholesalers fear they could be frozen out of a £1.5bn Covid relief fund at the 11th hour.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors has urged government to ensure wholesalers are included in the guidance, which is set to be issued to local authorities ahead of funding allocations next month.

FWD CEO James Bielby wrote: “We are requesting that wholesalers are explicitly recognised as eligible for the Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund in the accompanying guidance.

“This ask stems from our recent experience with the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG). A significant number of our members had their first and second round of ARG applications rejected by Local Authorities as wholesale was not specifically referenced as an eligible business type.

“It was only after the guidance was amended to specifically include the term wholesale that our members started to be awarded ARG funds.”

The plea comes as the long-awaited Provisions for the Material Change of Circumstance (MCC) fund, which sits within the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill, is due to become law on 1 December.

After this time, local authorities will be gearing up to receive applications for what will be known as the Covid 19 Additional Relief Fund.

Wholesaler Harvest Fine Foods MD Richard Strongman said: “Just because the government has taken an inordinately long time to make good on the £1.5bn promise, it doesn’t mean the need for the support is any less.”

Strongman called out the “arbitrary” way local authorities awarded the “vital lifeline” ARG funding and said it was therefore “vital” the government gave clear instructions to local authorities.

“In one instance a wholesaler in London was awarded £500,000 whereas elsewhere in the country awards were typically in the order of £3,000-£10,000,” he added.

“To put that in context, our rates bill is £130,000 per annum and the costs to keep my chillers and freezers going is £12,000 per month. We need to be given more substantial awards that properly reflect the true costs of running our businesses and the financial impact we have suffered because of the lockdowns.”