The retailer I’m using here as an example is so spooked that she asked me not to use her name. I don’t think the local council (which I’m also not naming) will be scouring this column for clues to her identity, but I want her to stay happy. She was very worried about her forthcoming rates because they had been all over the place in the past and being the only shop on the street meant there were no nearby businesses with which to make a comparison.

First she paid just £99 for a whole year then the next valuation decided to put it up to £163 per month. One has to observe that the confusion this sort of upheaval causes provides an easy ride for the cowboys and, indeed, my caller did once get stung for £700 by conmen offering to get her a reduction.

I gave her the contact details for a trusted chartered surveyor (see story top left-hand column), but she decided to hold off until she got ‘the letter’ from the council.

She rang again after it arrived. Rates were now zero! She isn’t arguing with that, but she is nervous and I think there will be a lot like her.

The whole thing really does need a big overhaul. How can you properly plan your future when you don’t know whether, or by how much, the local council is going to clobber you?