Independents see the multiples’ claims that they will create new jobs as a thinly veiled attempt to win public favour and influence decisions on planning applications.

Asda says it will create 7,000 jobs this year, while Tesco intends to open 200 stores and create 10,000 new positions in 2009.

The news has been given a warm welcome by the government, with secretary of state for work and pensions James Purnell hailing Asda’s Local Employment Partnerships as “a real success”.

Purnell’s support has disappointed C-Store readers, including independent retailer Nigel Dowdney, who owns two stores in Norfolk. “Saying that the supermarkets will create more jobs for local people is just not true,” he said.

“It is a fact that when a supermarket opens, small stores lose out. This is just a handy headline to help the supermarkets win favour when it comes to submitting expansion plans.”

Barrie Seymour, owner of a Londis store in Liversedge, West Yorkshire, accused the government of “suffering from a very worrying case of blinkered vision”.

“It is completely ignoring the fact that further supermarket expansion will put more local shops out of business and more local people out of work,” he said. “Gordon Brown might as well take a bulldozer and trash our high streets now, because that is what this will mean.”

Shane Brennan, public affairs director at the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), added that the government “should not be seduced by short-term development projects which in the long-term could be harmful to local communities”.

The Department for Work and Pensions declined to comment further on the supermarkets’ claims.