The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has criticised a report urging politicians not to introduce a large retailer levy.

In its report, Manifesto for Retail in Northern Ireland 2011, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) called on the Northern Ireland Assembly not to charge large stores a levy, claiming that it was a “misguided policy” and would also impact on high street stores. It also proposed scrapping the impending tobacco display ban and charging for single use plastic bags.

Although NIIRTA welcomed the overall manifesto, it disagreed with the BRC over the large retailer levy. “The reality is that the big high street retailers such as Asda, Tesco and many others continue to make billions of pounds of profit and have performed well during the recession,” said chief executive Glyn Roberts. “In addition they continue to enjoy an unfair competitive advantage over town centre based independent retailers with free car parking and pay less per square ft in rates than small retailers.

He added that the levy would “level the playing field”. “Out of town superstores have decimated our town centres and closed many independent stores”, said Roberts. “It is time for the big multiples to start paying their way in relation to business rates”.

The levy was proposed in the Northern Ireland Executive budget statement last month however details of the proposal have yet to be finalised.