LIKE an angry bull in a china shop, Tesco has come out swinging over changes to the rating structure which would oblige the mammoth multinational to carry a fairer share of the rates burden.
From a company which made £3.5 billion last year, that’s a bit rich. Especially since its CEO has pledged to make the global behemoth – which is accused of devastating town centres with its out-of-town superstores – “open and softer”.
We wonder what part of “open and softer” is Tesco’s threat to pull £100m in investment in the North of Ireland if the Executive pushes ahead with plans to rebalance the rates burden by getting the retail giants to pay more?
Tesco and other High Street stores are a vital part of our economy and deserve to be treated in a fair and equitable fashion by government. However, that doesn’t mean politicians have to bend to the company’s threats on this issue. That doesn’t mean that we have to stand by and watch small businesses that have been both the lifeblood and backbone of local communities wither and die in the face of the untrammelled buying and promotion power of the multinational giants. That doesn’t mean that they can call the shots with politicians.
A vital part of the Buy Local campaign launched by this newspaper group is to win more rates relief for the smaller trader. Of necessity, that has to come from those who have been doing quite nicely over recent years. This readjustment of the rates burden is, indeed, more urgent than ever, given the latest statistics which show the number of companies going out of business because they can’t pay their rates is rising at an alarming rate.
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson let Tesco have it with both barrels this week – in the Assembly and on the airwaves. It’s our hope that he’ll stick to his guns and that his review of the rates system will give the economy the boost it so badly needs.