Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons and Aldi also traded strongly during the crisis, yet they coughed up
“Principles [are] more valuable than profits,” says the headline on the Co-op Group’s description of its values, but the co-operators forget to mention the small print. The boast, it seems, does not apply to the principle that food retailers should pay business rates when their stores are open and trading strongly.
In the absence of an asterisk, Allan Leighton, the chairman, attempted an elaborate defence of the refusal to repay £66m of relief from business rates. Financial support from the government was welcomed “on the basis that it was not a loan and we would not need to pay it back – and we took business decisions accordingly, he said. Fine, but that misses the point. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi could make the same argument – but all coughed up.