Belfast Telegraph

Sainsbury's chief: retail levy fundamentally wrong

By David Elliot

The man at the helm of one of the UK's largest supermarkets has maintained that a levy aimed at large retailers here is "fundamentally wrong".

"I don't think any sector should be uniquely taxed," Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King told the Belfast Telegraph during a visit to Northern Ireland.

"Our business is growing, we're a net exporter (from here) and it is fundamentally wrong to tax an individual sector." While against the idea of a large retailer levy - one which is expected to tax around 76 of the biggest retail stores in an effort to extend a business rate relief scheme for small companies - Mr King said he was glad that a 'sunset clause' had been introduced to the bill.

That means the large retailer levy is time-limited and will come to an end in March 2015.

"It means we can get on with planning for the next 10 and 20 years," Mr King said, adding that he wants to continue to grow the Sainsbury's business in Northern Ireland.

However, he wouldn't be drawn on whether the supermarket's future investment plans have been impacted by the introduction of the levy.

Last autumn Tesco told The Belfast Telegraph that it would cut its investment plans in Northern Ireland were the tax to be introduced, a tactic which Finance Minister Sammy Wilson described as bullying.

Through the levy around £7m is expected to be raised from large retailers. It will help fund an extension to the 20% relief on businesses with a rateable value of £5,000 to those with rateable value of £10,000. Mr King was speaking at Casement Park GAA ground in Belfast where he had just ran the first of 32 individual miles planned at locations across the UK within three days.

The run, part of Sport Relief, involved a member from each of Sainsbury's 13 Northern Ireland stores.

Operations manager Nigel Macauley, joined Mr King on the run.

It will finish on Saturday at Coldham's Lane in Cambridge by which time Mr King will have run 32 miles with 1,000 Sainsbury's staff or 'colleagues'.

£7m

The amount the large retail levy is expected to generate

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