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13 Jan, 21 tweets, 10 min read
Today's u-turn on vouchers for #FreeSchoolMeals by @10DowningStreet and @educationgovuk is not without consequence. At the end of two weeks of last minute decision making on education, the upshot is that good honest people are on furlough as of tonight. A thread on the impact:
Before Christmas the Government were adamant that schools would stay open on the basis they were low risk. Schools placed order for food from their wholesale partners in preparation before going off on two weeks' holiday.
Stock was ordered in accordingly by wholesalers ready for shipment in January. They also bought stock in preparation for No Deal Brexit as the negotiations with EU dragged on. Stock bought for Xmas was still hanging around: the November lockdown and then the Tier system
put paid to any prospect of shifting that. But not to worry, schools were open in Jan and the Tier system allowed some trade. So all was not lost, despite absolutely no sector specific support coming from @hmtreasury. Wholesalers had been trading at a loss since March 2020,
staying open to supply schools, hospitals, and care homes with food. Retailers and hospitality outlets had been given business rates relief, including £billions to supermarkets seeing record sales. Wholesalers? Absolutely nothing.
@hmtreasury not interested in the least, @DefraGovUK doing a good job at listening but not much more. Nevermind that 5,000 people had lost their jobs, and family businesses were burning through reserves at a rate of knots. No support from Government. That's where we were on Jan 4
Then the new lockdown was announced by @BorisJohnson, taking effect at midnight on Jan 5. Schools closed, hospitality largely shut down. Remember, we had Brexit stockpile, Xmas stock which was impossible to sell, and now orders placed for and by education.
All of that stock suddenly redundant. How much? £12m of excess stock, all it created by misinformation and planning failure by the #ukgovernment. Schools sent back orders placed before Xmas. @hmtreasury announced a support package, but of course there was nothing for wholesale!
The outlets got another injection of cash, no questions asked. Wholesalers could apply to local authorities for small discretionary amounts. O Frabjous Day! A full £12MILLION of stock that had to paid for with no one to sell it to.
Wholesalers took to the airwaves, with some heroic interviews with @creedfs, @PdeT13, @DunstersFarm and others. @NinaWarhurst highlighted it on @BBCBreakfast. Still nothing by way of help by @DefraGovUK and @hmtreasury
Then @MarcusRashford got involved and highlighted the waste issue. Anything that can be donated to @FareShareUK et al is of course done so. But much of this stock can't be donated as it's too big, needs specialist storage or it's just not wanted by food banks and charities.
Still @MarcusRashford was interested and that's a positive. And we still had our free school meal packs which were keeping wholesalers afloat in the absence of any Government support. High-quality food parcels for those in need.
Unfortunately some of the parcels offered by non-FWD member wholesalers weren't as good. The @Chartwells_UK offer that did the rounds on here wasn't up to scratch. There was uproar on social media after @MarcusRashford rightly called this out. FWD's @coralrosie did the same.
The work done by @MarcusRashford on child poverty and nutrition is outstanding. And the @chartwells offer was not good enough. But it was an outlier. And there were a handful of poor examples.
Yet as a result the #UKGovernment did another U-turn today and changed the @educationgovuk guidance on free school meals and reintroducing the voucher scheme. Government by headline. No strategy or consistency. Just following the news, not leading it.
Remember, there is £12m of excess stock in the wholesale channel that @hmtreasury won't help with. There has been no business rates relief, no sector-specific support. Just family-run businesses trading at a loss to supply care homes and hospitals, using up reserves or loans.
Well, thanks the Government's U-turn there's a lot more excess stock in wholesale now this evening, after schools cancelled the food parcels in their droves. Supply orders have been made by wholesalers for the next few weeks to supply FSM. All that trade taken away instantly.
People are back on furlough tonight as a result of this decision. And a sector on its knees due to the lack of @hmtreasury support just took another kick. No business rates support, no grants, nothing. Another avenue to keep the channel going has vanished.
And where can the vouchers be redeemed? Supermarkets! Thats the biggest irony of all. The Government has today handed wholesale trade directly to the supermarkets - just to chase a headline. Wholesale ignored and overlooked again, while supermarkets make record profits.
Here’s an example of the parcels @FWDwholesale members offer. This one included breakfast well before the current media storm. Still, @BorisJohnson has taken the heat off himself so never mind that children won’t benefit any more and people are now furloughed...
And more great school boxes ready to go out

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