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Furlough extension welcomed, but WSTA ups call for duty deferment

Published:  20 April, 2020

The Wine & Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) on Friday welcomed government’s extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furloughing) to the end of June 2020, but pressed again for an acceleration of relief measures for businesses hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

The WSTA has proposed “practical measures” to address the cashflow crisis for hospitality-focused businesses, reiterating its position that this has been exacerbated by large excise duty payments, while also calling for business rates relief for all those firms supplying our pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants.

“The government has still not introduced a blanket duty deferment and needs to improve its ‘time to pay’ approach and communication so that businesses can benefit, including putting something in place for the many businesses that don’t have duty deferment accounts,” said the WSTA.

“We welcome the extension of the job retention scheme, which will put off collective redundancy of furloughed workers for at least a month. The scheme is a vital lifeline for the entire hospitality industry,” added WSTA chief executive Miles Beale.

“However, the furloughing of staff won’t prevent redundancies altogether – or indeed put them all off until further down the line. The lack of government action to address the cashflow crisis being experienced by hospitality suppliers and outlets means redundancies are increasingly likely.”

The Treasury Select Committee is to take evidence on this issue at its hearing on Tuesday 21 April, with the WSTA pressing for greater support for drinks suppliers whose sales of wines and spirits to (the now shuttered) UK pub, bar and restaurant sector normally amounts to a £10bn slice of the UK economy.

“To ensure the hospitality sector recovers the suppliers must be given the support they need to survive. If – as seems likely – the hospitality trade needs to prepare for a phased re-opening and heavily suppressed demand over the next months, all of this support will be needed,” said Beale.