North Devon Council is looking into plans to introduce an eight per cent levy on the rateable value of supermarkets in the area, which could bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds, boosting council coffers.
While the move could help cover the council’s budget shortfall, which means it must save £2 million, councillors are unconvinced the scheme is a good idea.
If the plan goes ahead it would see the council use the Sustainable Communities Act to impose the charges on supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lidl and a host of others.
The council first decided to look into the plan in July, when Conservative councillor David Luggar proposed it at a council meeting.
He pointed out how Secretary of State Eric Pickles gave local authorities the power to introduce a local levy of 8.5 per cent of the rate on large retail outlets, provided the rateable value of the stores was above £500,000.
Any money raised under the scheme would have to be spent promoting local economic activity, improving local services and facilities, social and community wellbeing and environmental protection.
Councillors at the meeting resolved to pass the idea to the executive for further consideration. A report is currently being prepared for a meeting of the executive in October.
Leader of the council Brian Greenslade said the idea was “in the very early stages”.
“Frankly I don’t think we’re great experts on it,” he said.
“That’s why it’s been referred to officers because we need to have a clear view of the plusses and minuses to such a scheme.”
But the executive’s deputy leader is not convinced the plan is a good idea.
“I’ve some reservations,” said Rodney Cann.
“I think it might put us at a disadvantage to other areas and ultimately it will be the shopper that pays.
“This money won’t come out of nowhere. Prices may well go up.”
Independent councillor Mr Cann also said the plan was the latest in a line of “poorly thought through” government plans.
“We hear about localism but the reality is authorities are losing funding then being told to find it elsewhere,” he said.