Supermarket levy would level the playing field

Call for local levy on big retailers, such as supermarkets
Call for local levy on big retailers, such as supermarkets

Money spent in local and independent shops is worth many times more to the local economy.

Money spent in local and independent shops is worth many times more to the local economy, because it is re-spent locally by shop-owners - whether in wages to local people, in contracts with suppliers, or in fees to local accountants. They also employ many more local people relative to their turnover when compared with large supermarkets.

In comparison, research suggests that some 95% of the money spent in big shops is siphoned away from our local economy to head office and shareholders.

The odds are stacked even further against small businesses through the nationally-set business rates scheme. The Federation of Small Businesses estimates that business rates are five times more expensive for small businesses as a proportion of turnover than they are for large companies.

Brighton and Hove City Council is one of a number of councils looking at ways in which we can re-balance this historic unfairness, which currently favours larger retailers. This is even more important as the government has ruled out reviewing business rates for another three years.

So I am asking for cross-party support for a national campaign calling for powers to introduce a local levy on big retailer outlets such as supermarkets.

This would represent a tiny fraction of the huge profits they make: the biggest four supermarkets each posts operating profits of more than £500 million a year.

This measure would make a huge difference - and could be redistributed to help smaller independent businesses through schemes such as local rate discounts, area improvements, or bus routes.

Big shops like supermarkets have a part to play in our local economy. We want, however, to make sure that they contribute to - as well as take from local communities - especially when their continued expansion threatens the diverse small businesses that make Brighton and Hove such a unique place to live and visit.