Anneliese Dodds has called on the government to “do the right thing” with the £1.3bn business rates relief returned to the government by supermarkets to support businesses and individuals to get through the winter.
Responding to news that Sainsbury’s will join Morrisons and Tesco in paying back £1.29bn they were exempted from paying earlier this year, the Shadow Chancellor called on the Tories to boost support available for businesses in Tiers 2 and 3.
She said: “It’s welcome that our largest supermarkets have done the decent thing and returned the money they gained from the UK government’s one-size-fits-all approach to rates relief.
“This should never have been necessary. If the UK government had done as Labour asked, and as we did in Wales, it could have targeted support to those who needed it right from the start and saved many more jobs.”
The government initially announced on March 18th that all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses would not be required to pay business rates in England for the year 2020-21 as a result of the implementation of Covid restrictions.
The Welsh Labour government adjusted this relief and did not extend the 100% relief to properties with a rateable value of £500,000 or more. This decision affected fewer than 200 properties across Wales but saved approximately £117m.
Dodds added: “The UK government must now urgently do the right thing and use this money to fix the holes in its economic support schemes and end the unfairness in the current system.”
The move from Sainsbury’s today comes after the business, which reported that it has incurred “significant costs” in the Covid crisis, nevertheless said its sales and profits had been “stronger than originally expected”.
The supermarket company faced significant criticism when it paid out £230m to investors earlier this year after it decided to axe 3,500 UK jobs and announced that it would close 420 Argos shops, which it owns.
Labour has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister and Chancellor to abandon what party figures have described as a “one-size-fits-all” approach and pursue a more targeted attitude to business support in the pandemic.
Labour warned on Monday that the latest business grants schemes to be introduced by the government in the pandemic will “level down” the poorest areas and “betrays some of the most deprived communities under the toughest restrictions”.
The party highlighted that through the ‘additional restrictions grant’, which makes a one-off £20-per-head payment to councils, some of the poorest areas will receive the same or less funding than the richest despite being set to go into higher tiers.
Labour has also pointed out that the £1,000 payment announced by the Prime Minister last week for ‘wet-led’ pubs in Tiers 2 and 3 does not make up the shortfall between the local restrictions support grant and the original small business grant.