FEARS have been raised that changes to Sunday trading laws will hurt families and hit small traders.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce in today’s budget speech that councils will be allowed to set Sunday hours.
Albert Road Traders’ Association chairwoman Jenni Catlow is among the critics of the plan, saying it will disrupt family life and not improve business.
She said: ‘It won’t give the employees quality of life and it will just take them away from their families.
‘Many people don’t have enough money to spend on the days the shops are open.
‘I think it’s a way of making it look like more people are in employment, but many of the big shops won’t be paying the living wage.’
Caroline Collings-Wood, chairwoman of the Federation of Small Businesses’s Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire branch, also criticised the plan.
She said it would put extra pressure on small traders.
She said: ‘As a small business owner, trying to open six days a week can be difficult enough as it is.
‘Without any time off, it’s not creating a healthy environment. It will also impact the quality of family life.
‘There should be one day of the week when families can be together.
‘After all, it won’t be the CEO of Tesco who will be working on Sunday until 7pm, it will be hundreds of his employees.’
Under the current rules, only shops with a floor space under 3,000sq ft as well as petrol stations, pharmacies and certain other shops are allowed to open outside 10am to 6pm on Sundays.
But Geoff Bacon, who owns Booze and More off-licences in Bedhampton and Waterlooville, said he was not worried about the changes.
He said: ‘It will have an impact, and any impact on turnover is unwelcome, but at the end of the day it’s the customers who choose to go to the supermarkets.
‘It’s all about service, if people want to pick up a bottle of cold wine to go with their barbecue on a Sunday afternoon they’ll still come here.
‘If people want to spend their Sunday evenings shopping in a supermarket, that’s their choice.’
But Mr Osborne’s plan will allow councils to set the times businesses are allowed to open, which could lead to extended trading hours every day of the week.
Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones said she supported the move to longer hours.
‘I wouldn’t object to it,’ she said. ‘If people want to go shopping at 6pm on Sunday because they work Monday to Friday, I would have no issue with that.
‘However, some people do value their day of rest, so we would have to consult on whether it happens in Portsmouth.’
Fareham Borough Council leader Councillor Sean Woodward said: ‘A small rural community might decide they don’t want longer hours and a more urban area might welcome it. It should be horses for courses. It’s very appropriate that those laws be made in the interests of the local communities.’