THE biggest shake-up in Worcester's shopping scene for 20 years is on the way - with Sunday trading laws being ripped up for longer opening hours.

In a bid to boost the High Street Chancellor George Osborne will announce a relaxation of Sunday shopping hours tomorrow.

The move, which will form part of the Budget, comes after the Government obtained evidence Sunday shop transactions were growing faster than Saturdays.

The policy has been welcomed by the body which represents Worcester shops and businesses.

Adrian Field, from Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), said: "It's an interesting one, Sundays aren't perhaps as family-oriented as they used to be - for many it was about the church, a roast dinner, bath, bit of TV.

"In Worcester we look at footfall and Sunday isn't actually much different from Monday or Tuesday, people want convenience.

"The counter argument is, will smaller shops benefit - there's an opportunity to steal a march and I'd hope the city council would work with us and look at a consultation into what businesses and the public want.

"There are compelling arguments for and against this but the fact is, internet shopping is here, it's now 11 per cent of all the shopping being done, and that's going on all the time.

"Not all the shops in Worcester open on Sundays but people tend to browse more, it's very noticeable how more relaxed it is."

Current laws allow very small shops to open all day, but restrict those over 3,000 square foot to six hours trading.

A new Government bill will allow councils to set new Sunday opening hours at the times they consider feasible - which could even open the door to twilight shopping.

But any new hours would only work if enough shops take advantage of it.

The proposal comes after larger stores and supermarkets were allowed to open for longer on Sundays during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The move has already led to opposition from some Worcester councillors, who say it could cause "chaos" in the retail sector.

Councillor Richard Udall said: "Any proposal to extend Sunday trading hours misunderstands the retail sector.

"The last thing that retailers need is a race to open 24 hours a day, seven days week, resulting in a big increase in overheads and no increase in revenue through the tills.

“It would also harm and damage small independent traders who will be forced to open longer hours at great expense in order to compete with the large retailers.

"It would create a Sunday trading war which only the rich and powerful in the industry could ever hope to win.

“I respect the religious views of the many people who choose Sunday as their day of rest, but it is not just about religious observance.

"It is a critical issue of shop workers’ rights, rights to enjoy a family life and the right to have a day off.

"Retail is well known for low pay and long hours, shop workers need the protection of the law.

"Many people, especially those who work or have worked in retail will be willing to stand up for their rights and to preserve the legislation that protects their interests and their welfare.”

But Councillor Simon Geraghty, city council leader, today said: "We're in a competitive environment and if others do it, I wouldn't want Worcester to be uncompetitive, if people can go to Birmingham, Solihull, Cheltenham, even Bristol and places like that.

“It’s not something we’d have come up with ourselves, but now it’s happening it’s something we will want to consider and look at it in due course, we’d want to talk to Worcester BID and the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), who might give us a wider view on it.”

Mr Osborne said: "The rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend."

The Chancellor believes there is "growing appetite" for the change, saying it would create at least 3,000 jobs and boost the economy by £200 million in London alone, notwithstanding the rest of the country.

The move is expected to be included in an Enterprise Bill in the autumn.

Tomorrow Mr Osborne is also expected to announce a £30 million kitty to help councils speed up the adoption process.

The money will pay off the £27,000 charge local authorities are hit with each time they have to hunt outside their patch to find an adopter.

Worcester MP Robin Walker said: “Speeding up adoption not only makes a real difference to the amount of time that children spend in care, it also improves the life chances of vulnerable young people.”

Councillor John Campion, cabinet member for children and families at County Hall, said: "Worcestershire has a good record in improving how quickly children get adopted.

"This grant is a welcome addition to our efforts and will help us to build further on what is already impressive performance against the government targets for adoption.

"The additional funding will allow us to place more children in a stable and loving home that is the best fit for everyone involved."

* Your Worcester News will be covering tomorrow’s Budget LIVE - visit from 12.30pm for comprehensive coverage and reaction.