MAJOR retailers could be charged top-up taxes under plans being drawn up by Green councillors.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s minority Green administration wants the power to levy higher taxes to help smaller independent retailers.
Other local authority areas which have proposed the idea have suggested a rate of 8.5% on properties with a rateable value of more than £500,000.
Under this rate 50 premises would be affected in Brighton and Hove which would raise around £860,000 – though councillors have not yet confirmed numbers.
The revenue could be redistributed through small business rate relief, improvements to shopping areas and better bus routes to shops.
The plan has the backing of Labour councillors but not the Conservatives.
Money spent in independent shops is worth many times more to the economy because it is re-spent locally by shop owners, whereas 95% of money spent in large shops is siphoned away to head office and shareholders, the Greens argue.
The Federation of Small Businesses says business rates are proportionally five times more expensive for small businesses compared to large firms.
Green leader Jason Kitcat said: “A small local levy on large retailer outlets such as supermarkets would represent a tiny fraction of the multi-million-pound profits they make.
“But it could really help us rebalance a national system that is weighted in favour of large retailers.
“This measure could see money redistributed to help smaller independent businesses through schemes like local rate discounts, area improvements or bus routes.”
Warren Morgan, leader of the Labour group, said: “It is good that the Greens are picking up this campaign started by Labour-run councils around the country.
“Many local traders might say it is ‘too little, too late’ given the harm their policies have caused, but it is welcome nonetheless.”
Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservative group, said: “This proposal is lacking in some pretty important basic detail, such as what constitutes a ‘bigger retailer’ and how much the tax would be. I am all in favour of supporting independent traders but I’m not sure arbitrarily penalising supermarkets is the best way to do it.”
Tony Mernagh, executive director of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said: “There is no doubt that because of the arcane way that rateable values are worked out small businesses are disadvantaged.
“Since the Greens ideological distaste for supermarkets and the public’s dissatisfaction with some of the larger players is also well known it could be construed to be picking on an easy target.”
Gavin Stewart, manager of the Brighton Business Improvement District (BID), said traders already paid into the BID and an additional levy could cause big business to desert the scheme, denying smaller businesses Christmas lights, security and a bright, vibrant and city centre. He added: “Conversely, if the additional levy continued to pay for these services, allowing the smaller businesses to not pay in to a BID, then I can see real benefits for the wider business community.”
The motion proposes the council’s policy and resources committee sign up to the Local Works campaign for levy powers in principle.
This follows Derby City Council’s similar application with more than 60 other councils supporting the bid.
The proposal will be debated on June 12.