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Bradford Council leader cool on superstore levy
6:00am Monday 2nd September 2013 in News
An idea to place a levy on large supermarkets and use the money to revitalise town and city centres is to be explored by Bradford Council.
A campaign group called the Local Works Coalition is calling on the Government to introduce a levy on retail outlets which have a rateable value of £500,000 or more.
These shops, likely to be large supermarkets, would pay 8.5 per cent of the business rate to their local authority, with the cash being spent on revitalising town and city centres.
The campaign group wrote to councils across the country asking them to write to the Government in support of the idea. But when Green Councillors Kevin Warnes and Martin Love brought the idea to a meeting of the full Council, Bradford councillors had doubts.
They instead decided to refer the matter to their Regeneration scrutiny committee to see how such a levy would affect the district’s competitiveness and what the impact would be on jobs.
Coun Love (Shipley) said large supermarkets had had a massive impact on towns all across the country and something needed to be done to make things fairer for small shopkeepers.
He said: “Twenty or 30 years ago, Shipley town centre had several butchers, greengrocers and bakers. We are now down to one butcher, there’s no actual greengrocer apart from on the market, and one bakery.
“They are killing off town centres. This is about trying to level up the playing field.”
Coun Love said the scheme would be based on the size of shops, so supermarkets and some large DIY centres would pay a levy, while individual shops in malls would probably not.
Bradford Council leader Councillor David Green said while he would “never want to say never”, he had concerns about whether this was the right time to impose levies on retailers.
He said: “I think that the principle of a levy on larger schemes, depending on their location, is something that needs to be seriously considered.”
But he said the level of harm caused by large shops would depend where they were. He said: “Where are they looking? Are they looking at out-of-town or edge-of-town sites and therefore should we ask them for a levy that would help us make sure the town or city centre doesn’t suffer?
“Having said that, the situation that we find ourselves in with the Bradford economy, where we are looking to build retail in our town and our city and district centres, would we want to put this forward and therefore potentially put off larger developers who want to come and invest in both town and city centres? For instance, would it make the Sainsbury’s scheme in Bingley more difficult to get off the ground?”
But Coun Love said if the levy was introduced across the country, it wouldn’t drive investment away from Bradford, suggesting the district could even waive the levy if it wanted to attract certain schemes.
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