Shops in Bexhill could be open for longer on Sundays under plans to devolve powers over trading hours to towns and cities to be unveiled in Wednesday’s (July 8) Budget 2015.
In the biggest shake-up of Sunday trading laws since the 1990s, Chancellor George Osborne wants to allow mayors and councils to determine for themselves what the rules should be in their areas.
The existing law prevents larger stores from opening for more than six hours.
Mr Osborne has decided that decisions on similar relaxations of the law should be taken at a local level, so that areas which think longer opening hours would boost economic activity are free to go ahead.
The Budget is expected to announce a consultation on two proposals: devolving power over Sunday trading law to elected mayors and to local authorities.
“Even two decades on from the introduction of the Sunday Trading Act, it is clear that there is still a growing appetite for shopping on a Sunday,” the Chancellor said.
High street shops have been coming under growing pressure from online retailers, which now account for 11 per cent of retail sales overall – rising to 17 per cent in the month before last Christmas.
“There is some evidence that transactions for Sunday shopping are actually growing faster than those for Saturday,” Mr Osbourne said.
“The rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend.
“But this won’t be right for every area, so I want to devolve the power to make this decision to mayors and local authorities.
“This will be another part of my plan to ensure a truly national recovery, with our great towns and cities able to determine their own futures.”
Sunday trading laws allow all stores to open for six hours between 10am and 6pm, while small shops covering less than 3,000 sq ft can open all day.
Research by the New West End Company has shown that extending Sunday trading by two hours in London alone would create nearly 3,000 jobs, and generate over £200 million a year in extra income.
Reform would bring Britain into line with its international competitors, for instance Paris has recently relaxed restrictions on Sunday trading, while there are none at all in New York.
Shopworkers’ trade union leader John Hannett is disappointed with the government’s proposal as he said it will cause chaos by varying opening times across the UK.
“This Act is a Great British compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years and gives everyone a little bit of what they want,” he said.
“Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family.
“So it is difficult to see how any changes to the Act would maintain the fair and balanced settlement agreed by all sides.
“We will vigorously campaign against such a proposal and we would be looking for the Government to learn from their two consultations and failed trial period by leaving alone the existing Sunday trading arrangements agreed by the main stakeholders in the retail industry.”
*What do you think? Would you like shops to be open longer on Sundays or do you think they deserve their Sunday afternoons too?
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