‘Big Four’ supermarkets pay back £1.7bn in Covid funds

Tesco drivers demonstrate against sackings – the store has had to repay business rate relief they claimed even though they remained open

SUPERMARKET giants Tesco and Morrisons have claimed almost £1bn worth of emergency finances between them – finances that were made available for shops that were forced to close during the lockdown. This is despite both supermarkets being open for business as usual!

They have now after public outcry had to pay the £1bn worth of finances back as it emerged that Sainsbury’s and Asda were doing exactly the same.

The ‘big four’ supermarkets were all claiming business rates relief to boost their already swelling profits during the pandemic.

This is while hundreds of thousands of small family shops, high street stores and big department chains, desperate for cash were going into liquidation.

Some 11,120 chain store outlets shut between January and June 2020 alone with 498,000 jobs axed for the first five months of the Covid crisis, according to research by the Local Data Company and accountancy firm PwC.

Supermarkets giants are paying back these huge sums after fierce criticism once it emerged that they were taking the government assistance despite their sales booming during the crisis, paying bumper dividends to their shareholders. They have done very nicely out of the coronavirus crisis!

Tesco announced on Wednesday morning that it would repay £585m and then Morrisons followed by pledging to return £274m.

By yesterday lunchtime, Asda announced it will now repay £340m of business rates relief it has received during the pandemic.

This means that collectively Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda will return more than £1.7bn.

It is not just supermarkets which have been utilising the business rates relief on offer while remaining open and making a mint. Do-it-yourself (DIY) multinational B&Q and bargain superstore B&M have also both claimed for business rates relief while at the same time remaining open and making massive profits.

Waitrose, John Lewis and M&S also claimed for business rates relief and have said that they will not be repaying the amount they have taken in business rate relief.

Meanwhile, Debenhams claimed £40.5m of taxpayers’ money through the Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme after the failed retailer fell into administration.