Leeds-based Asda has announced it will pay its business rates of £340 million in full to the UK Government and Devolved Administrations, waiving the relief it received in respect of addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asda is the last of the UK’s big four grocers to announce the move.
“The relief provided by Government in late March was vital to ensure we were able to carry out our important role in feeding the nation and meet the unexpected associated costs that came with it – such as shielding our colleagues on full pay, investing in making our stores Covid secure or supporting the work of our charity partners,” said Asda.
“These costs have far outweighed the relief we have received this year.
“Through the height of the pandemic we also recruited over 22,000 additional colleagues to cover absence and increased demands in our stores – and we did not furlough a single colleague.
“Despite the significant operational challenges created by Covid-19 we have successfully and safely served customers in our stores since March, kept our prices low, expanded our online business and provided deliveries to protect the vulnerable.
“This reflects the significant resilience of our business and incredible efforts of our colleagues.”
Asda CEO Roger Burnley, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have always sought to do the right thing – fulfilling our role in feeding the nation, protecting our colleagues and supporting our communities.
“But, as the hope of a vaccine and a more ‘normal’ life returning in 2021 grows, we have confidence that we are in a strong position to again do the right thing for the communities we serve.
“Almost half our customers are telling us they expect their financial position to worsen in the next 12 months and we recognise that there are other industries and businesses for whom the effects of Covid-19 will be much more long lasting and whose survival is essential to thousands of jobs.
“We will therefore be discussing with the Government and Devolved Authorities the best mechanism to ensure the relief we have received can go towards helping those that need it most.”