'Tesco tax' would raise £1.5million for city centre
MAJOR improvements to Gloucester's city centre could be paid for by a £1.5million tax on out-of-town supermarkets and other larger stores.
The so-called "Tesco tax" would force such firms to fork out 8.5 per cent of their rateable value every year.
The money raised would be ploughed into helping city centre firms with their business rates or sprucing up the look of the centre.
Shopper Sandra Keates, 53, from Hardwicke, said: "We are always being told how much money the supermarkets make out of us so it would be nice to see them giving back."
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Greg Piontek, who owns independent vintage shop Miss Silver, in Commercial Road, said: "Rents and rates are often too high. If the council can give incentives to new business owners it would really help."
The levy, suggested by the city's Liberal Democrat councillors, would apply to premises with a value greater than £500,000.
Asda, at Bruton Way, for example, has a rateable value of £2,450,000 and would pay £208,250 per year into the fund.
Planned improvements to Gloucester city centre, such as the cladding of ugly buildings, are currently being funded by a £2million one-off payment from the construction of Tesco at St Oswald's.
Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of the city's Liberal Democrat group, said: "The impact on the stores turnover would be less than 0.1 per cent. It is a very small impact for them but this would be money for the city centre year after year.
"At the moment it is blue sky thinking but when the money from Tesco runs dry people will look at this with more of an open mind."
A supermarket tax has already been brought into force in Scotland and is expected to raise £95million over a three-year period. A similar tax is also enforced in Northern Ireland.
The idea of bringing it to England's towns and cities has been suggested by Local Works, a coalition of 100 organisations championing local communities.
Gloucester City Council said it would need to see how it worked elsewhere before considering the idea.
Councillor Jennie Dallimore, cabinet member for communities, said: "This would not be the right message we want to send out to businesses when a key priority is regeneration and inward investment.
"It was felt that the present time was not right to look at this, particularly as the extra charge may ultimately be clawed back from the consumer, squeezing incomes further when they are already stretched.
"Developers and investors are showing faith in Gloucester's approach. Attracting businesses into the King's Quarter development has to be key for city centre regeneration."