Herefordshire Council has defended its Shop Local prepaid card scheme against claims it benefited national supermarket chains.
The scheme, which initially offered households £15 to spend in the county, was launched last November with the aim of helping local businesses recover from the pandemic.
“By buying locally you can ensure your money stays local – which is good for you, your community and the future of Herefordshire,” according to the council’s webpage explaining the scheme.
The council now says supermarkets account for just 4% of the 1,786 places the card has been used since its launch.
But he also said 15 of the top 20 spend-based businesses under the program were local independents — in other words, five are not.
For transaction purposes, “supermarkets can be in the same trader category code (MCC) as village stores and independent convenience stores,” a council spokesperson explained.
“Excluding supermarkets from the scheme could also have excluded these other independent businesses – while a significant number of small local shops have benefited from the Shop Local scheme.”
And the spokesperson underlined: “Part of the money spent in supermarkets will remain local. Many supermarkets have ties to local suppliers and the local communities they serve, and they are local employers, so there will be local benefits.
The council’s list of payments that were potentially excluded from the program included “betting and gambling, dating and escort services, massage parlors, pawnshops and tobacco shops, consulting, automated fuel pumps, cable, satellite or other pay television subscription services and telecommunications services”.
This month he topped up the cards with an extra £10 credit, but stresses this must be spent by the end of the month after which the scheme will cease.
Registration for the program closed at the end of January. The council says some 60,000 households in the county, around two-thirds of all households, have applied for and successfully used the cards.