Local authorities could be given the power to extend Sunday opening hours in a bid to boost the local economy by £1.4bn a year.
Under plans unveiled today in a consultation document, the Government is proposing to devolve Sunday trading rules, saying this would enable high streets to compete with online businesses and smaller retailers, while offering consumers more choice about when to shop locally.
Under current laws, shops that have a floor area of more than 3,000 square feet can only trade for six hours on a Sunday.
The two proposals open for consultation include devolving Sunday trading hours to councils or elected mayors through new ‘devolution deals’. It also considers devolving this power to all local authorities so they can choose which areas could be given longer trading hours.
The document states: ‘Devolving powers to local areas is part of our wider package of policies to support high streets - from cuts in business rates for small shops to stopping over-zealous parking practices. As the needs of local areas varies from place to place, the people who live, work and do business locally know best what their area needs to grow.
‘Therefore, the Government believes that local areas are best placed to determine the right approach to Sunday trading in their locality.’
Chairman of the the Local Government Association, Cllr Gary Porter, said it was right that councils, residents and local businesses were given the power to decide how best to drive growth in their local area. However, he added: ‘Its vital that any changes are a 'can do' choice rather than a 'must do' duty imposed by central government.
‘It's now vital that government ensures any proposals allow councils to meet the needs of their communities without undue restriction or unnecessary bureaucracy.’