Tesco profits soar - again
PROFITS made by the supermarket giant Tesco - which has come under heavy criticism from many rural organisations - soared again last year to £2.5 billion, 13% up on last year, which in itself was a record, according to figures released today.
The retail chain has been under attack for several years from bodies ranging from the Women's Institute via farmers to the Campaign to Protect Rural England for its rapid development in small market towns which, say the critics, is putting small retailers out of business in their thousands.
It has also been the prime target of bitterness from dairy farmers, who allege that it has made hundreds leave the land because they cannot make a profit on the low milk prices paid by Tesco.
To counteract this, the company has just agreed to increase its milk prices after two years of talks with farm organisations and the rural affairs ministry, Defra, but many rural business owners look upon this as a PR gimmick to deflect criticism from its ever-tightening grip on the nation's purse, not just in food but also in clothing, electrical appliances, books, DVD's and CD's.
A similar voluntary scheme was dumped by the big supermarket chains within a matter of months some five years ago. The Government failed to intervene then because cheap food has helped them keep down the rate on inflation until now.
Planning is another source of grievance against Tesco, particularly in rural areas like North Yorkshire. Last year, Craven District Council refused planning permission for a plan to double the size of the Tesco store in Skipton, but the refusal was overturned by Whitehall and work is expected to start soon.
Twenty five miles away, Harrogate is said to be the biggest town in Britain without a Tesco store but the company is also appealing to Whitehall against the planning refusal of Harrogate councillors.