Shoppers face paying an extra penny for using self-scan tills7 min read

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Supermarkets are being urged to introduce a new 1p charge to use self-service machines as part of a plan to ‘heal divisions’ blamed on Brexit. 

The proposal comes from a cross-party Parliamentary panel on social integration (APPG) which claims £30million could be raised by the scheme to help fund community projects to bring together people from different generations. 

But retailers say it would penalise shoppers and effectively be a new tax to use the supermarket and shoppers reacted with fury to the plans.

The panel is chaired by Change UK MP Chuka Umunna and suggested the scheme in new a new report called Heal the Generational Divide.

The report suggests divisions exist between older and younger people, particularly around Brexit, with research claiming that both the younger and older generations would be happy for the other to suffer if it meant getting their own way.

A Parliamentary panel on social integration has suggested a 1p charge for self service supermarket checkouts to raise money for community projects to bring different generations together amid suggestions that Brexit has caused divisions between the young and elderly (file picture)

A Parliamentary panel on social integration has suggested a 1p charge for self service supermarket checkouts to raise money for community projects to bring different generations together amid suggestions that Brexit has caused divisions between the young and elderly (file picture)

It also proposed schemes including a ‘Take Your Headphones Off Day’, tax breaks for care home volunteers and a national post-retirement volunteering scheme to bring together more people of different ages. 

The 1p charge was suggested by Alex Smith, chief executive and founder of charity The Cares Family.

The report said: ‘The thinking behind this idea is that some of the technological changes we are seeing sweep through our society may bring major efficiencies and cost savings, but that these can come at the expense of valuable everyday human contact. 

‘If this is the case, then it might make sense to see if a fraction of those cost savings can be captured to put back into initiatives that support greater social interaction, in this case greater intergenerational connection. 

‘The APPG’s calculations suggest this policy might yield upwards of £30 million per year to strengthen intergenerational projects across the country.’ 

Research for the report was based on a study of Morrisons’ supermarkets which suggested that the business would have around 617million checkout transactions per year across 491 stores with 24,000 customers.

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The panel then used Morrisons’ 10.5 per cent market share to estimate the total money the charge could bring in alongside other supermarkets, based on at least half the checkout transactions being at self-service units.   

The report added: ‘Brexit has demonstrated the need to strengthen ties between different generations so that we can face big national challenges together rather than apart. 

The report was produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, chaired by Change UK MP Chuka Umunna, pictured

The report was produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, chaired by Change UK MP Chuka Umunna, pictured

‘And with an increasing amount of evidence pointing to the high levels of loneliness experienced by people of all ages in the UK, building meaningful connections across generations should be seen as vital for the wellbeing of all of us.’ 

But Tom Ironside, Head of Business & Regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said the Government should be finding ways to reduce costs for shoppers

Who is on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration panel? 

 Chuka Umunna MP (Change UK); 

The Rt. Rev the Lord Bishop of Oxford Steve Croft;

Wera Hobhouse MP (Lib Dem); 

Caroline Spelman MP (Tory);

Holly Walker-Lynch MP (Labour); 

Dr Paul Williams MP (Labour).

He said: ‘A new tax, particularly one that penalises modern shopping behaviour, will harm both consumers and retailers at a time when retailers are rightly focused on delivering the best value for shoppers. 

‘Given that retail accounts for 5% of the economy, yet pays 10 per cent of all business costs and 25 per cent of all business rates, we should be finding ways of reducing the tax burden, not adding to it.’

But the report argued self-service machines are already putting off elderly people from shopping and thus a charge may also prompt more people to interact on manned checkouts. 

The report said: ‘According to Anchor, a housing charity for older people, roughly a quarter of older people are put off from going shopping by self-service machines, due to finding them ‘intimidating’ and ‘unfriendly’ and giving them a ‘miserable experience’.

‘The Campaign to End Loneliness has warned that self-service checkouts have closed off what might be for some people the only chance to talk to someone during the day.

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‘The APPG is proposing that this small charge would be hypothecated, so that all funds go straight into local intergenerational projects, rather than a centralised government pot. 

But retailers say the charge would be a 'tax' on shoppers and increase financial pressures

But retailers say the charge would be a ‘tax’ on shoppers and increase financial pressures

‘We would be open to the idea of local authorities having control over which projects receive money from this fund, or customers themselves deciding which project to give their 1p to at the end of their transaction.’

It is unclear whether or not Change UK will adopt the proposals as official policy but spokesman Mr Umunna said: ‘We all know that Brexit has been incredibly divisive but what we have seen over the course of this inquiry suggests that generational division extends far beyond the realm of politics, into our daily lives.

‘This report sets out the beginnings of a framework where local, regional and national government can work together to foster stronger connections between generations. 

‘Now, more than ever, we need to act to bring our country back together and move forward as one. 

‘That’s why it’s vital we keep talking about what is happening in our society, try to understand why and find solutions that will help heal the generational divide.’

The report and recommendation has now gone down well with some shoppers.

Dici Kumar, 49, is a regular shopper at Sainsbury’s in Eltham, south east London.

The corner shop worker, who lives in Dartford, Kent, said: ‘On the face of it then it doesn’t sound a bad idea. Nobody is going to say they don’t want to help the elderly –it’s a win-win.

‘But I don’t think it will go down well with the younger generations. And the idea that could bring people together to help solve Brexit is just ludicrous.

‘I don’t think that could be done by anybody if I’m honest. I’m not sure charging people for doing something that has become such an ordinary part of everyday life will work.’

Mick Potter, 72, said it was a ‘crazy idea’ to think it could help bring people together over Brexit.

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The pensioner, of Eltham, said: ‘The young ones won’t like it at all. If you see young people in this day and age they wouldn’t give up a seat for an elderly person or help us out – so I don’t think they’d support this.

‘The idea it could help Brexit as well and bring people together is a farce. We have become the laughing stock of the world.

‘I’m not sure I want to vote at the European elections because of what a joke it all is. The idea that charging people to use a self-service checkout is funding projects which in turn brings young and old together over Brexit is madness.

‘Nobody can do that. I think the divide is too wide. We had the vote and that’s it. People say well it’s the younger people that will be the next generation but the vote was carried out three years ago.

‘Some people find those machines confusing enough without people having to pay to use them. How would that work?

‘People are taxed enough.

‘What if the supermarkets wanted to take a cut?’

Luke Pollard, 25, of Gravesend, Kent, was also using the Eltham Sainsbury’s and was not impressed with the idea.

The student said: ‘Isn’t that why people pay the government taxes?

‘I don’t see how that’s right. I know it’s only 1p but it’s more the principle behind it and the logic. Why should Parliament be getting people to pay more all the time?’

Full-time mother Cheryl Toon, 35, said she did not see how the proposals would work.

Cheryl, of Dartford, Kent, said: ‘I know it’s not a lot of money but I don’t think it’s a good idea.

‘It seems like a supermarket tax. I can’t imagine the supermarket companies are happy about it.

‘Isn’t there more important things to be thinking about? Why isn’t more focus being put it on actually sorting out Brexit? Rather than charging people because it’s not been sorted.

‘It’s going to be normal members of the public paying for this and it’s not normal members of the public who have made a complete mess out of Brexit – it’s the politicians.’