The tax imposed on large retail premises in Northern Ireland will damage job creation in the province and do nothing to help struggling small businesses, local retailers have warned.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium today said the Large Retailer Levy, which aims to divert funds from major retailers to helping town centres, would primarily benefit banks and chains of betting shops.

The body made the claim in response to government figures that showed only half the funds generated would go to helping small retailers in town centres.

“The new tax is flawed from start to finish,” said NIRC director Jane Bevis. “Not only does it unfairly punish one of the sectors best placed to create jobs and attract investment, the funds raised won’t even reach their intended target.”

She added: “Politicians risk doing major damage to growth, investment and job creation in Northern Ireland by rushing into a poorly designed tax.”