Supermarkets are facing increasing calls to pay back almost £1.9bn in business rates relief on offer during the coronavirus pandemic because they are paying out dividends to shareholders. Sainsbury’s disclosed business rates relief worth £230m in the first half of its financial year, while paying £231m in dividends, and Tesco has announced a £315m dividend, while receiving relief worth £585m. Conservative MP Esther McVey said the money would be better directed towards the owners of small limited companies, many of whom have not been eligible for any emergency coronavirus support. The Labour party said that government financial support should be targeted at preventing job losses. Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s shadow business minister, said: “If the public is to have confidence in these measures, ministers must ensure taxpayers’ money supports British jobs.” Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said it was “wrong if the savings on rates are being used to supplement a dividend”, adding that if some companies were repaying money secured under the Government’s furlough scheme, others could relinquish rates relief.
Read more: Daily Mail