Now’s the time to establish our priorities for the public affairs work which forms the backbone of FWD’s service to members.
The early part of this year looks like being all about alcohol. Our long fight to stamp out duty fraud could reach a new intensity in the spring if, as is rumoured, Treasury minister Chloe Smith launches a consultation on measures to prevent the loss of pound;1.2bn a year in revenue to the public purse. We made our recommendations public long ago, but the focus now is on providing data to demonstrate just how severe an impact this illegal trade has on legitimate wholesalers’ business. With the co-operation of members and the aid of our contacts in Westminster and Whitehall, we are gearing up for what could be a once-in-a-decade chance to rid the industry and the country of this pernicious fraud.
Our members also expect the issue of deep discounting of alcohol, and the definition of ‘below cost’, to return to the agenda. It’s possible that this debate will be overtaken by the call for a minimum unit price for alcohol, and we are preparing to engage in that discussion too.
A new focus for 2012 will be crime against wholesalers, their staff, premises, vehicles, and customers. FWD’s Criminal Intelligence Database has started to bear fruit, with several arrests in the last month as a result of information passed to the police. Armed with this data, the next step is to convince the Home Office and the police that the scale of this crime, and the effect that stolen products have on communities, should be a higher priority.
Other issues of concern to members include the annual rises in the National Minimum Wage, which create huge issues with internal pay structures. Energy and fuel costs are never far from the minds of distributors, and proposals for a road use fee will be carefully monitored.
This year additionally brings a one-off challenge; the Olympics may be a great opportunity for our sector’s customers but as the clock ticks towards August there’s still work to be done to ensure our members can deliver them their stock through the congestion and diversions around the event.
So 2012 is looking like a challenging but exciting year for FWD and I’m confident that the work done in 2011, building contacts in government and gathering the support of industry, has set us up for real success in the months ahead. I have to say, I’m rather looking forward to it.