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Lidl last of the big chains to say it will return rates cash

£1.3m saved by company to go towards public services

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Lidl is to return £100m across the UK

Lidl is to return £100m across the UK

Lidl is to return £100m across the UK

Lidl has said it will hand back £1.3m in saved business rates to the Department of Finance after its stores benefited from a four-month rates holiday.

The discount grocer, which has 40 stores across Northern Ireland, is the last of the big four supermarket chains to announce that it will return cash saved from a local tax break intended to cushion businesses from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.

Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda had already said they would be handing back any savings.

It follows a story in this newspaper earlier this week which revealed that small-format Tesco stores had benefited from a year of free rates.

On Tuesday, Tesco committed to repaying a total of £585m to the UK Government and devolved administrations.

Across the UK, Lidl is to return £100m. The total committed by essential retailers is £1.95bn.

Pets at Home and B&M Bargains will also be returning any money saved.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Conor Murphy said he "welcomes the intention of a number of large supermarket retailers to repay their rate relief" and that the money would be reinvested in public services.

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Delighted: Finance Minister Conor Murphy welcomed the development

Delighted: Finance Minister Conor Murphy welcomed the development

Delighted: Finance Minister Conor Murphy welcomed the development

Rates are collected by Land & Property Services (LPS), which is a part of the Department of Finance.

Lidl NI said the rates relief received for April to July had been used "promptly" for continued emergency response measures, including the provision of safety equipment, security features and training.

JP Scally, chief executive of Lidl NI, added: "The business rates relief that was provided to us and the rest of the supermarket sector was a welcome lifeline to all retailers during an unprecedented and challenging time. We are extremely grateful for this because it allowed us to make significant, quick and unplanned investments in our operations, infrastructure and people to manage customer demand and keep people safe.

"As Northern Ireland's fastest-growing supermarket retailer, we feel confident that the business is well-positioned to navigate and adapt to any further challenges brought by Covid-19.

"I'm pleased to announce plans to return this relief (because) we believe it is the right thing to do. We are working now with LPS on the best way to facilitate this."

The company said it had hired more than 340 new staff, increased stock levels, invested in infrastructure to ensure security of supply and introduced safety measures including "millions of masks and hundreds of protective checkout screens".

The firm announced last week it would be spending £32m on five new stores in Belfast - two of which are replacement branches - creating 100 jobs.

Grocers are under pressure to return any money saved because they remained open throughout the year while enjoying increased sales as more people cooked at home because of the closure of restaurants and cafes.

However, Lidl is the only one to say exactly how much it is returning to the Department of Finance.

The remaining companies have not detailed how much they saved from local rates relief.

The extent of savings here is smaller than in the other parts of the UK.

While all businesses in Northern Ireland benefited from a four-month rates holiday, a more limited range received a full year free of rates, with food stores of more 500 sq m exempt.

That threshold meant 18 local Tesco Express branches qualified for government support.

Belfast Telegraph


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