The present government has brought in enough red tape to strangle the independent sector, all the while protesting that it has its best interests at heart. The main opposition is offering to reverse this position, should Dave get our vote, by giving more power to the people through local government.

It's a fine theory and I keep my fingers crossed for it, but local councils can make you despair as well. Take Bijan Dutta's situation. He has run Frank's Self Service, a single-fronted store in London's Bermondsey, next to a tube station, for the past 16 years.

There are some 13 shops in this average parade, including a newsagent, an off licence, a florist and Frank's. There is only one landlord, the council, who previously imposed covenants to make sure that everyone's business was protected. A new lease removed these covenants but a gentleman's agreement prevailed. "It was common sense for others not to sell papers or alcohol," says Bijan.

Next door to Bijan's a double-fronted unit, formerly a sportswear store, re-emerged under the Best-in symbol just before Easter with a smart new exterior and interior, trading 24 hours.

It is owned by a retailer who has built a small chain of stores.

The council didn't notify Bijan and he is since being crucified by price-cutting tactics. Milk and bread, the natural price-fighters, are still cheaper at the new store even though Bijan's supplier has tried to help with costs.

"I put £1 bowls of fruit and veg outside and the other store now does that, too."

He pays £700 monthly in rent plus £135 in council taxes which he can no longer afford, and he still has another 10 years to worry about the mortgage on his house.

Simon Hughes, his Lib Dem MP, is sympathetic but hasn't made any progress on his behalf. Bijan has now consulted a solicitor who is going to appeal to the council not to revert to the way it was, which isn't possible but to seek compensation.