SAINSBURY’S, Asda and Aldi are returning almost £900 million in business rates relief they received from the UK and devolved governments during the Covid-19 crisis.

It follows news on Wednesday that Tesco and Morrisons are giving back £585m and £274m respectively in business rates relief.

This means five of the UK’s major supermarket chains are now refunding more than £1.7 billion in coronavirus support to the public purse.

Supermarkets have been criticised for taking government support while paying dividends to shareholders and enjoying bumper sales.

“With regional restrictions likely to remain in place for some time, we believe it is now fair and right to forgo the business rates relief that we have been given on all Sainsbury’s stores,” said Simon Roberts, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s. It is forgoing £440m of rates relief and hoped this could help non-essential retailers and other businesses forced to close in the second lockdown.

Asda is returning £340m. It said costs such as shielding colleagues on full pay, making its stores Covid secure and supporting charity work had far outweighed the relief it received this year.

Asda President and chief executive, Roger Burnley, added: “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.” The chain will discuss with the government and devolved authorities how best to ensure the relief can go towards helping those that need it most.

Aldi is waiving £100m. Its UK chief executive Giles Hurley said: “Thanks to our amazing colleagues, we have been able to remain open during lockdowns and despite the increased costs we have incurred during the pandemic, we believe returning the full value of our business rates relief is the right decision to help support the nation.”