Labour demands tax breaks repaid by supermarkets be given to struggling high streets

16 December 2020, 23:33

Labour thinks tax break funds handed back by supermarkets should be given to struggling high street shops
Labour thinks tax break funds handed back by supermarkets should be given to struggling high street shops. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Labour is demanding that part of the £2 billion in tax breaks handed back to the Government by supermarkets should be spent on helping struggling high streets.

The party said that without Government help, a further 18,000 businesses would be forced to close after London, much of Essex and part of Hertfordshire were placed into the Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown category on Wednesday.

Shadow business minister Lucy Powell said part of the money should go towards propping up struggling pubs, cafes and restaurants after a swathe of major food chains said they would return the Government aid.

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Ms Powell said: "This Government's irresponsible choices have left the UK with the worst recession of major economies, and tens of thousands of businesses are still in purgatory.

"Without adequate business support, pubs, cafes and restaurants around the country will go bust, taking with them jobs, suppliers and the life's work of so many.

Tesco handed back hundreds of millions in tax relief this year
Tesco handed back hundreds of millions in tax relief this year. Picture: PA Images

"The money being repaid by the big supermarkets should be set aside now to stop this wave of insolvencies and support our hardest-hit businesses, like pubs and hospitality firms, as well as people who've gone without any extra support for nine months now."

Ms Powell called for the Treasury to release part of the £2 billion in business rate relief returned by major supermarket chains.

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She said the money could be used to establish a High Streets Fightback Fund aimed at firms hit hardest in the crisis.

Ms Powell said Labour research showed that when the new restrictions came in, "an estimated 77,000 pubs, cafes, restaurants and other hospitality businesses will be closed in Tiers 2 and 3, including over 80% of all pubs in England".

Tesco announced earlier this month that it handed back £585 million in business rate holidays to the treasury.

Chairman John Allan said the board "are conscious of our responsibilities to society" and that the company did not need the saving due to remaining open and trading strongly throughout the pandemic.

It was shortly followed by several other major retailers including B&Q, who returned £130 million in business rates relief handed to it by the UK and Ireland governments during the pandemic.