Council defends shop local scheme against claims it benefits supermarket chains

By Gavin McEwan   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Thursday 17th March 2022 12:00 pm
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Herefordshire Council has defended its Shop Local pre-paid card scheme against claims that it has benefited nationally-owned supermarket chains.

The scheme, which initially gave households £15 to spend in the county, was launched last November with the aim of helping local businesses recover from the pandemic.

“By shopping local you can make sure your money stays local – which is good for you, your community and the future of Herefordshire,” according to the council’s webpage explaining the scheme.

The council now says supermarkets have made up just 4 per cent of the 1,786 places where the card has been used since its launch.

But it also said that 15 of the top 20 businesses based on spending under the scheme have been local independents – in other words, five are not.

For transaction purposes, “supermarkets can be in the same merchant category code (MCC) as village shops and independent convenience stores”, a council spokesperson explained.

“Excluding supermarkets from the scheme could have also excluded these other, independent businesses – when a significant number of small local stores have benefited from the Shop Local scheme.”

And the spokesperson pointed out: “A proportion of the money spent at supermarkets will stay local. Many supermarkets have links to local suppliers and the local communities they serve, and they are local employers, so there will be local benefit.”

The council’s list of payments which were potentially excluded from the scheme did include “betting and gambling, dating and escort services, massage parlours, pawn shops and tobacco stores, counselling services, automated fuel pumps, cable, satellite, or other paid TV subscription services and telecommunication services”.

It has this month topped the cards up with a further £10 of credit, but points out that this must be spent by the end of the month, after which the scheme will cease.

Registration for the scheme closed at the end of January. The council says some 60,000 households in the county, or about two-thirds of all households, successfully applied for and have been using the cards.

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