As you’ve no doubt been reading lately, business rates appear to take only one direction: up. From next April colossal increases of 5.6% (based on the rate of inflation) threaten to descend. Just what you need in a shrinking economy.

This also means, of course, that the cowboys will be dusting off their spurs and coming after you to offer their ‘help’.

Mark Wilson (Wilson’s, Nottingham) knows about the cowboys and is himself trying to do something about his current ratings bill, which he believes is already too high.

He has done some homework in the form of canvassing other businesses in his area and beyond, and he has put his evidence directly to the valuation officer dealing with it. It has been accepted in principle that he is paying too much. However, the two tend to differ on the amount, in that the valuation officer agreed to a 5% reduction while Mark thought 25% would be more in order.

Mark has some issues with the hoops involved. “There seems to be so much smoke and mirrors. You would think there would be consistency between similar properties, but there seem to be so many variations.”

Obstacles, too. He’s having difficulty seeing files on his property despite them being public documents.

The upshot is that Mark and the VO will attend a tribunal on December 7.

Mark knows he can’t get a bone fide local chartered surveyor interested in helping him as the reduction for the current valuation period he is seeking amounts to only about £600. Worth it to him, though, especially as rebates can be backdated six years.

He has had some helpful free advice from Preston chartered surveyor Ken Batty, whom I have often quoted in this column. But further feedback from any retailer who has actually attended a tribunal of this sort would be helpful.