Council criticised for choice of supermarket consultant

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A councillor has criticised a decision to hire a consultant, who has worked closely with a series of supermarkets, to advise a council on whether in should bring in special powers to increase the tax on large retailers.

Babergh district councillor Robert Lindsay feels Bob Delafield, hired by the district council to inform members on whether to apply for the powers, has a conflict of interests.

It comes after Mr Delafield admitted in his report that he has worked for Asda, Morrisons and The Co-operative, and was paid by supermarkets to get planning approval for new stores across East Anglia eight times in the last two years.

Mr Lindsay wants to see Babergh request powers from the Government to levy an extra local business rate on large stores in the district.

The levy will be discussed by Babergh’s strategy committee on Thursday, using evidence from Mr Delafield’s report, in which he has recommended the council does not apply for the extra powers.

“Anyone dependent on the big four supermarkets for his living is not going to recommend an extra tax on them,” said Mr Lindsay. “The point of the levy is to try to redress a long-standing unfairness.

“Big out-of-town stores are effectively given a massive discount on business rates compared to town centre stores, because the Government calculates the rates differently.”

Strategy committee vice-chairman Simon Barrett said Mr Delafield was a local expert who they had used before.

“We employ the best person for the job,” he said. “The fact that they worked for a supermarket is neither here nor there. They just look at the evidence.”

Mr Barrett also warned that pushing supermarkets away could have dire consequences, including large-scale job losses.