THE battle for the High Streets was played out at Poole council where the “Tesco tax” was supported by Liberal Democrats and opposed by Conservatives.

Large supermarkets should be taxed to help pay for improvements to local shopping areas, says Local Works, a coalition of 120 national organisations campaigning to reverse community decline.

It has been backed by a number of local authorities and already operates in Northern Ireland and Scotland. However Poole won’t be joining the lobby to government.

Liberal Democrats on Borough of Poole argued in favour of an 8.5 per cent levy of the business rate on large retail outlets with a rateable annual value of £500,000 or more. This tax would be retained by the local authority to improve local communities and could be used to reduce parking charges encouraging people to shop in town centres and districts.

Cllr Mike Brooke leader of the Liberal Democrat group said a levy could benefit local communities by £250,000 to £750,000.

“This was a way of potentially generating money that wouldn’t impact on rents and could benefit the High Street, which everyone is moaning about in terms of its decline,” he said.

He said the money could be invested into the local business community to help small and medium businesses survive. “It works elsewhere without any detrimental impacts,” he said.

However the Conservative administration voted against the motion, arguing that penalising large businesses such as supermarkets would not help smaller ones survive.

“We have brought in measures to support small and medium businesses that are making a real difference, aimed particularly at encouraging business start-up and sustainability,” said Cllr Elaine Atkinson, council leader.

She said 750 businesses had taken up a rate relief scheme, Bournemouth University students were researching the town centre and making recommendations, there was a scheme allowing people to test the market in empty high street shops and other initiatives included the Dorset Growth Hub.