David Cameron's recent so-called summit for jobs sent shivers down my spine. Among the 19 big corporation chiefs sipping tea at Number 10 were the heads of the big four supermarket chains. Not surprisingly, the spin machines went into overdrive immediately afterwards, with the 19 companies announcing 40,000 new jobs between them around 36,000 at the supermarkets.
But these jobs are only 'new' if the multiples are granted permission to continue building, which inevitably closes shops elsewhere in the same town, costing jobs.
In fact, the whole idea of supermarkets as job creators is flawed. Large corporations as a rule do not strive to put more people on their payroll; it's more likely they are trying to do the opposite. The main reason why supermarkets have grown at the expense of independent local stores is because they are more efficient, which is all about employing fewer people per box sold, not more. So how can they create more jobs than would be the case for the equivalent quantity of goods through the independent trade? A neighbourhood independent store will also use local suppliers, accountants, solicitors, shopfitters and so on, circulating wealth in a way that multinational companies with shareholders can never do.
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the whole summit is that it goes against what David Cameron is supposed to stand for. I thought that Prime Minister's Localism and Big Society ideas revolve around the fact that growth can best be achieved by energising economic activity at a local level, not by cosying up to large corporations.
The fear is that the supermarkets have presented him with a deal whereby they say they will create jobs, but only if they are allowed to continue building new stores. I hope he's smart enough to see through this.
The judging panel has just completed the first round of judging for the Convenience Retail Awards, and there is plenty to like about what we've seen.
Across the country we have seen evidence of plenty of independent stores, both large and small, who are investing in their businesses, working brilliantly with their local communities and achieving great sales.
The only downside of the whole process is that the standard has become so high that there are loads of fantastic stores that we won't be able to invite to the awards dinner on March 31. So if you are one of those stores who has entered the awards programme but not got through, let me take this opportunity to both thank you and renew our pledge that we at Convenience Store will carry on doing everything we can to help your business continue to grow and flourish this year.