A cooperative attacked for maintaining the reduction of commercial tariffs

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The cooperative group has come under attack from supermarket rivals for its decision to maintain £ 66 million of trade tariff relief it received during the pandemic despite rising profits and paying executives in bonuses.

The mutual, which prides itself on its “truly ethical trading” credentials, will award bonuses to senior executives.

A senior supermarket executive said he was “flabbergasted” by Co-op’s decision not to refund the money and accused the retailer of “nuclear hypocrisy”.

They added: “From a company that has spent the last decade pushing its values ​​down anyone’s throat and taking a high moral stance, looking their customers straight in the eye and saying ‘you can whistle. bang for your buck ‘and’ no, that’s not contradicting our values, it’s nuclear powered ocean hypocrisy. “

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The general manager of another retailer who returned the tariff relief said: “It would have been very helpful to keep it, but it’s not our money – it’s the taxpayer’s money.”

The mutual, which also has funeral, legal and pharmacy divisions, reported sales of £ 11.5bn for the year ending Jan. 2, £ 600m more than in 2019 .

The group’s pre-tax profits fell from £ 24million to £ 127million, while the underlying operating profit of its food business rose from £ 283 million to £ 350million.

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The cooperative said it would reimburse £ 15.5million in holiday pay claimed through the coronavirus job retention program, but added it had been forced to spend £ 84million on cover costs directly associated with the pandemic, such as PPE for staff.

Steve Murrells, Group CEO, said: “What the board has done is very much in line with our values ​​and ethics. The decision was fully supported by the Membership Council, we did not pay any money. dividend and we don’t. have the same access to financial markets as everyone else. “

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