Poll: Should Sunday trading laws be relaxed to give us additional shopping hours?

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre - does shopping give you a buzz?

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre - does shopping give you a buzz? - Credit: Archant

With the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected to announce today that the government is to ease Sunday Trading laws, local authorities are preparing their response to the proposals.

George Osborne is to announce legislation to allow local authorities to ease restrictions in their areas – allowing large stores to open for more than six hours on Sundays if they want.

The move has been welcomed by business organisations and by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer – although most local councils say they will look at the position if and when legislation is passed.

Mr Osborne will say the move is necessary to allow traditional high streets to compete with internet retailers – and to allow customers more choice about when they shop on Sundays.

He was backed up by small business minister Anna Soubry who warned people against: “harking back to a world that probably didn’t exist.

“We are of that generation where Sunday, truthfully, was the most miserable day of the week,” the 58-year-old minister said. “The only thing to look forward to was Sing Something Simple on the radio. Goodness me, if that didn’t sum up a miserable Sunday.”

For Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement the relaxation could not come soon enough: “It is long overdue. Sunday is the second busiest day of the week, but by 5pm all the shops have to shut. It makes no sense.

Most Read

“You don’t get internet retailers closing their sites at 5pm on Sundays.”

He believed councils would feel compelled to relax the rules as other authorities did the same.

And Mr Gummer said: “I think people should be able to make their own decisions on whether they go shopping on Sundays.”

However Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said he would rather see the existing rules remain: “We would have to discuss the issue, but we would have concerns about what longer hours would me for people having to work on Sundays.

“I don’t see the need to change, but obviously we would have to be aware of what was happening in other towns.”

St Edmundsbury council leader John Griffiths said the council would look very carefully at the details of the plans in consultation with residents and businesses.

“We would be pleased to have the powers, but we would look very carefully at the relevant benefits for the people and businesses we serve.”

Mark Cordell, chief executive of the Ourburystedmunds Business Improvement District (BID) group, said he was not convinced increased Sunday trading hours were necessary.

“I think the Sunday trading hours are probably sufficient at the moment. For a number of independent traders it’s another day off. I have not had any of my businesses clammering for this. It’s probably looking at bigger stores in bigger towns and cities.”

At Colchester cabinet member Bill Frame said there needed to be more details: “I’m not sure what benefits that will bring to Colchester, especially if it is just an extra two hours a day.

“I can see it happening perhaps in metropolitan cities but I’m struggling to see the rationale for here. We already have convenience stores open until late.

“Could there be a turf war I wonder if we did and Ipswich didn’t for example – would there be queues down the A12 on Sunday for people to come and do their shopping?”

Neil Stock, leader of Tendring District Council, said he wanted to see more details of the proposals – but expected to take a positive approach to the proposal in Clacton, Harwich and Frinton.

He said: “It is not that Sundays are not sacred any more, but shops have to compete with online traders 24/7. People can still choose to stay at home.

“I have got a family, we are busy, and Sunday is sometimes the only day we can go shopping, but often no sooner do you arrive then you are being kicked out because it is closing.

“Modern life has changed and we need to reflect that and support our businesses.”