A coalition of 20 councils is calling for a new levy on big supermarkets to pay for improvements in local shopping areas.
The local authorities say the tax could raise money to help revitalise town centres.
The leader of Derby City Council, which is leading the group, said that life was being "sucked out of the city centre" by big out-of-town stores.
Ranjit Banwait told Radio 4's Today programme the move was a response to "the worst cuts in history" to council funding.
A similar levy is in place in Northern Ireland, while in Scotland health services for smoking and drinking-related disease are partly funded by sellers of tobacco and alcohol.