A ban on below-cost selling of alcohol, a supermarket ombudsman and a cut in red tape are among benefits for independent retailers promised by the new coalition government.

However, priorities set out by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration also include a tightening of licensing laws, with harsher penalties for breeches, and the scrapping of the national ID card scheme.

Praising the “positive agenda”, Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said the decision to ban below-cost selling of alcohol would help stores which have suffered from aggressive supermarket pricing strategies, but urged the government not to make wholesale changes to licensing laws. 

“We believe that objectives in tackling alcohol-related disorder can be achieved by targeted, small-scale changes,“ he added.

The coalition government confirmed its commitment to a grocery ombudsman and a local competition test for retail planning applications. “These are exciting opportunities and ACS will make every effort to assist government in delivering a level playing field,” said Lowman.

The announcement also included a commitment to ‘sunset clauses’ on regulation, to ensure regular reviews and a promise to “find a practical way to make small business rate relief automatic”.

Federation of Wholesale Distributors chief executive James Bielby said its members welcomed the proposed reversal of the £3bn rise in employers’ national insurance and positive action to extend the loans made available to small business. 

“If they are looking to increase their tax revenue and tackle the deficit, alcohol fraud would be one of the best places to start,” Bielby added.

New Ministerial appointments also offer hope for small stores. Long-term supporter Mark Prisk is  Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Andrew Lansley, who committed to a Conservative review of the tobacco display ban, is Health Secretary. Earl Howe, a passionate opponent of the ban in the Lords, is also on the government health team.