Independent retailers have accused the Government of using small shops as an easy target to solve the debate over the UK’s obesity crisis.

A report by MPs h

as been submitted to the Government, calling on them to introduce a 20% tax on sugary drinks – a move retailers say will force them to reduce their range and lose margin, adding extra pressure on rising costs, such as the living wage increase in April.

“People will still buy them regardless of the price, but it will reduce our margins,” said Bal Singh of Nisa Local in Great Barr, Birmingham.

“Retailers are really fighting hard to try and make a living and this doesn’t help. We feel it more because our margins are so tight.”

“The Government forgets that this is our bread and butter – part of it is tobacco, part is sugary drinks and mark my words, they’ll go after alcohol next”

He added that a tax on sugary drinks will make him reduce his range. “Trade in general is difficult, putting these plans – a tax on soft drinks, a wage increase – is just putting up more brick walls.”

West London retailer Ravi Kaushal of Premier Burlington News, called a sugar tax “pointless”. “If a fizzy drink costs £1 now, will it really be different if it goes up to £1.20? The answer is no,” he said. “It’s just another tax from the Government to target retailers.”

Naresh Purohit, of Marseans in Dartford, added: “The Government forgets that this is our bread and butter – part of it is tobacco, part is sugary drinks and mark my words, they’ll go after alcohol next.”

Health campaigners say a 20% tax on sugary drinks will help fight the UK's obesity problem Health campaigners say a 20% tax on sugary drinks will help fight the UK’s obesity problem

Along with health campaigners, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been petitioning for a sugar tax since the summer, but the British Soft Drinks Association argued that it would not be effective. “From the corner shop to the supermarket, 3.1% of the total turnover of the entire retail sector comes from soft drinks,” said BSDA director general, Gavin Partington. “If a soft drinks tax were to be implemented it would have a negative impact on producers, retailers and the overall economy.”

The ACS said it was “in discussion” with the Department of Health and Public Health England about the potential implications of a sugar tax on the sector, while NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “More education and information is needed if people are to be persuaded to change their lifestyles. A tax of sugary drinks is not the answer.”

The Government is due to publish a report on how to tackle the obesity problem early
next year.