// Co-op Group National Members Council urges company to hand back £70m of business rates relief
// The Council urged that the group’s board make an immediate pledge to waive the government windfall
// The Co-op employs 63,500 people, more than 55,000 of whom work in its retail business
The Co-op’s parent company Co-operative Group is reportedly facing disquiet from members after refusing to follow in the footsteps of rivals in returning millions worth of business rates relief.
The Co-op’s National Members Council has urged the company to hand back £70 million of business rates relief without delay.
It has also urged that the group’s board make an immediate pledge to waive the government windfall, Sky News reported.
- Co-op says it could offer “hundreds more apprenticeships”
- Tesco to pay government £585m it saved from business rates holiday
Co-op’s decision to invest a substantial sum in a new entertainment arena in Manchester meant it was facing “a battle for its reputation within the group”.
Some employees raised concerns on an internal forum about the investment – over a 15-year period – located near the Co-op’s headquarters.
The Co-op has said the project will create more than 4000 jobs.
The company has suffered due to the costs incurred by its funeral care operations, while a commitment to paying the National Living Wage from next year is also likely to affect its cost base next year.
The Co-op has not paid a dividend to its members for many years as it focuses instead on rebuilding its balance sheet.
The retailer said it has put the interests of people before profits and “the extra costs for keeping our colleagues and customers safe have far outweighed the government support we’ve received, in respect of business rates and furlough payments”.
It added that it will be considering its approach in terms of the government support it has received at year-end.
The Co-op employs 63,500 people, more than 55,000 of whom work in its retail business.
Most recently, the retail sector has seen the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi hand back business rates relief following increased pressure.
Tesco said it will return £585 million it saved from a business rates holiday introduced to help struggling retailers amidst the Covid-19 crisis.
Sainsbury’s said it will forgo around £450 million of business rates relief granted by the government, while responded by saying it had pledged to hand back the £274 million it had received.
Big 4 rival Morrisons has pledged to hand back £274 million, while Aldi, the UK’s fifth-largest supermarket, said on Thursday that it will return the full value of the business rates relief it has received during the pandemic, which is over £100 million.
However, Marks & Spencer said it will not follow retailers’ footsteps in returning £83.7 million business rates relief but acknowledged that the “much-needed support” from the government has provided a backbone to businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.