The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has announced a plan of action for the coming year which will share the government’s stated aim of strengthening communities.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said he had been reassured to see that community was central to the government’s plan for the future, as revealed in December’s Queen’s Speech. “Strong successful local shops play a major role in developing strong communities,” he said. “The government’s ambitions and our own have never been closer, and that is the message we take into 2009.”

ACS aims to voice retailers’ concerns over crime, tobacco and alcohol regulation, competition and planning.

“Theft from a shop is one of the most frequently committed crimes and yet it is massively under-reported and the seriousness of it is played down,” Lowman said. “The most recent solution to the problem, the on-the-spot fine, does not seem to be working. We want ministers to review the sanctions and get them working. Stopping shop theft should be central to tackling crime in the community.”

He added that retailers were too often seen as responsible for alcohol and smoking problems in communities and that this perception must be challenged. “Retailers work with police, parents and local authorities to develop local solutions to problems. This is to be encouraged and will reduce harm in the community far more effectively than an adversarial approach,” Lowman said.

ACS also believes the government has a role to play in ensuring that communities thrive economically and that this involves making sure that the grocery retail sector operates fairly. Bringing in measures recommended in the 2008 grocery market investigation should be a priority, it says.

Lowman added: “Planning policy is vital. That is why the government’s commitment to town centre retail policy has to be robust, and it has to make it impossible for large developers to force their will on communities. It also means that local Councils have to be given the skills and resource to plan positively for economically diverse and successful communities.”