London-based social enterprise initiative The People’s Supermarket has gained support from local government minister Bob Neill after it emerged Camden Council will not be granting the store not-for-profit rate relief.
The store, which opened in Bloomsbury in summer 2010 and was the topic of a four-part Channel 4 documentary last month, recruits volunteers and runs on cooperative values, but has been served with a court order for an unpaid £33,500 rates bill.
Neill has written to Camden Council urging it to reconsider the decision, saying it could undermine Prime Minister David Cameron’s well-publicised Big Society plan.
“The People’s Supermarket is great example of a sustainable food co-operative providing healthy local food at reasonable prices and is an inspiration to other co-operatives around the country,” the MP explained.
“There is a clear public benefit from The People’s Supermarket to the local community and a broader public interest in promoting co-operatives and the Big Society.”
Cameron visited the store himself in February and commended the work being undertaken by the 400-strong membership base, led by eco chef Arthur Potts Dawson and former Marks & Spencer commercial boss Kate Bull.
Bull told Retail Gazette last month that average spend at the store has increased significantly in recent months, and the exposure it received on the Channel 4 show has further increased awareness of the venture over the last few weeks.
Only councils can grant business rate relief for properties occupied by not-for-profit organisations, so Neill’s involvement in the matter will not necessarily have an impact on the outcome of the court order.
The People’s Supermarket holds a ten-year lease held on its Conduit Street premises, and will be hoping for support from the council as it tries to establish itself in the local community.