CHANGES to Sunday opening hours could have a devastating effect on small businesses, a butcher has warned.

Vince Montgomery, owner of Vince Montgomery Ltd Butchers in Wantage, said plans to extend hours for larger stores on Sundays would just give more power to big supermarkets.

His warning comes as traders have until the end of today to have their say as part of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils’ joint consultation on the changes to the Sunday Trading Act 1994.

The Government proposes relaxing the law, which restricts stores with a floor area over 3,000 sq ft to six hours of trading on a Sunday.

Trading regulations would be devolved to councils which could then make their own decision on whether to implement the new legislation.

Mr Montgomery said: “We are only a small business that can’t afford to hire many staff, so we have to work seven days a week just to survive.

“These changes are going to have a definite negative impact, and it gives even more power to the supermarkets who we have to compete against .”

A government report on the issue, released in August, claimed extending Sunday trading rules would result in benefits equivalent to £1.4bn per year in Britain.

It also argued retailers could make more use of larger stores by extending business hours, and said it would offer consumers more choice of where to shop locally.

Mr Montgomery, 54, said: “There isn’t going to be any positive effect on the economy.

“Anyone who believes anything different has little clue about what is really going on.”

But Michael Dale, owner of Umami Deli in Newbury Street, Wantage, and former chairman of Wantage Chamber of Commerce, said: “We don’t open on Sundays at the moment but these proposals may help us because larger shops may expand the market we have available.

“If they went through we could think about opening the business then.”

Mr Dale said although the effect on his business would probably be marginal, he did sympathise with small convenience stores which might lose trade because of the changes.

Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce supports the idea. A spokeswoman said: “We understand that there will be differing views on extending Sunday hours but from a business point of view, it will generate more income for the local economy, not only in terms of retailers but for hospitality venues, bars and restaurants.”

None of Oxfordshire’s other district councils have chosen to run a public consultation on the issue.

The joint consultation closes today.

To have your say go to