Written by: Keith Tully
Several of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains have committed to paying back tens of millions of pounds they received this year as a result of the government’s business rates relief policies.
Tesco, Morrisons and Aldi have all committed to making repayments in relation to rates relief essentially because they have been able to keep their sales levels up even as other retailers have struggled.
Sainsbury’s has also said it will be making repayments of business rates relief on the basis that it benefited quite tangibly from being counted as an essential service provider, particularly during the recent England-wide lockdown.
“Sainsbury’s sales and profits have been stronger than originally expected, particularly since the start of the second national lockdown in England and we have therefore taken the decision to forego the business rates relief on all Sainsbury’s stores,” a statement from the company explained.
Meanwhile, Tesco has said it will repay in the region of £585 million which it received in business rates relief in recent months and Morrisons has said it will return roughly £274 million on the same basis.
Supermarkets had begun to face criticism for taking advantage of the business rates relief opportunities made available to them during the pandemic because their sales levels have increased while others have been hit badly by the pandemic and the associated lockdowns.
The likes of Tesco have pointed out that while their sales have increased, their costs have also risen considerably during the virus crisis but nonetheless the decision to return rates relief money has now been taken by most major players in the supermarket sector.
“The board has agreed unanimously that we should repay the rates relief we have received,” said Tesco’s chairman John Allan in a statement.
“We are financially strong enough to be able to return this to the public and we are conscious of our responsibilities to society,” he added.
All retail, hospitality and leisure venue operators in England were granted business rates relief for a period of 12 months as of April 2020 and while many of those businesses have desperately needed that help, supermarkets have generally been relied upon even more than usual by their customers across the country.
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