sainsbury's opening times sunday trading

Both opponents and supporters of changes to the Sunday trading rules have branded the government’s plan for relaxation of the rules as confusing.

This week the government launched a six-week consultation for two options. These are “devolving powers to local areas, for example to metro mayors, through ‘devolution deals’; and/or devolving powers to local authorities more generally across England and Wales.”

Under the proposals, local authorities would have the discretion to zone which areas would benefit from the longer hours, such as town centres and high streets.

“This government is determined to devolve powers previously held in Whitehall to local people. That’s why we want to give local leaders the power to decide whether Sunday trading is right for their area, and to give their retailers the option to stay open for longer,” said communities minister Brandon Lewis.

The zoning approach is a matter of concern for campaign group Open Sundays, which wants a complete overhaul of the current rules. “We still believe that real devolution should be to consumers and retailers not local authorities,” said director Mark Allatt. “We are concerned that the devolution to local authorities will create a patchwork quilt of regulation leading to confusion and inconsistency for the consumer and the retailer.”

The BRC, which has members with differing views on relaxation, suggested the government needed to carry out more work on the implicatinos of the move through an impact assessment. “Plans to devolve powers on Sunday trading law to elected metro mayors and/or local authorities mark a very significant change, one that needs to be carefully thought through if the impact on local communities, their shops and their staff is to be fully understood,” warned a spokesman.

Concerns about the government’s approach to relaxing Sunday trading rules were also voiced by the Association of Convenience Stores. It said it was angered that large retailers were invited to a meeting with business ministers earlier this week ahead of the publication of the consultation, but the equivalent meeting for small operators is not happening until next week.

“The consultation process for these reforms has been shambolic and opaque, consulting large retailers while ignoring the valid concerns of those hardest hit,” said ACS chief executive James Lowman. “The government have not yet confirmed how the proposals will be introduced in parliament and whether the Lords will be given the chance to review the proposals.”

The consultation

  • Responses can be submitted until 16 September
  • The two options are devolving powers to local areas for example to metro mayors; and/or devolving powers to local authorities more generally.
  • Local authorities would have the discretion to zone which part of their area would benefit from longer hours, such as town centres and high streets.
  • There are three key questions being asked: should local areas have the power to extend trading hours on Sunday? If the power is devolved, who do you think should be given the power to change Sunday trading rules? And how would you be impacted by changes to trading rules?