Dover supermarket levy 'could help small shops'

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Large supermarkets and stores in the Dover area could be asked to pay extra taxes to help smaller retailers.

Councillors are to debate whether to charge a local levy of 8.5% on top of the rate for large outlets.

Councillor Peter Wallace said the levy could raise an estimated £1m a year that could fund free parking in town centres or cut small shops' rates.

Retail analyst Theresa Wickham said it would not be a long-term solution for reviving local high streets.

The 2007 Sustainable Communities Act gives local authorities the power to charge large retail outlets the extra tax.

'Scary new tax'

"The shops in the high street close about five or six in the afternoon, where supermarkets can stay open 24 hours," said Mr Wallace, a Labour group member.

"They've got internet shopping as well which local shops can't afford.

"The idea of a new tax is a scary thing but supermarkets can really afford to pay it."

He said the levy was already charged in Northern Ireland and Scotland and about half-a-dozen councils in England were discussing it.

The idea was rejected last month by councils in Bristol and Gloucestershire.

'High footfall'

Ms Wickham said councils should be careful about taxing businesses.

"The reason that high streets are failing is because of high cost of rents and that facilities aren't there for people to park," she said.

"Councils would be much better to sit down with successful businesses in their area to work together."

Kent Federation of Small Businesses said there were risks as well as benefits connected with the levy.

"Large multiple retailers do generate jobs and they attract a high footfall," said spokesman Andrew Aves.

Conservative-led Dover District Council's cabinet is to discuss the motion on Monday.

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