The warning comes from someone well-placed to know that the recession has brought a resurgence of ratings cowboys. Ken Batty, managing director of his firm of chartered surveyors in Preston, Lancashire, who has fought the cowboys for years, says he handled two more cases recently. One was being pushed for £825 as a payment for acceptance of an appeal. “Which as you know,” writes Ken, “anyone can do without cost (simply getting an acknowledgment from the Valuation Office Agency).”

The second case was rather more galling because, even though the demand was slightly less at £750, it was on a business where Ken had already reduced the assessment. “When the client rang us expressing concern, our response was, with respect, ‘why did you sign the papers knowing that you deal with ourselves’?” The retailer is now being threatened with court action. “And again it all revolves around acceptance of acknowledgement of the Valuation Office Agency.”

Ken is going to bat for him (sorry, poor pun). “Because this is a longstanding client notwithstanding (he has been a little silly to say the least) we have promised to support him at no expense should the matter go to County Court, which we doubt. Clearly, until there is legislation to prevent unqualified rating practitioners the abuses and effectively fraud will continue.”