It’s September again. A notable month, not just because of my birthday (all gifts gratefully accepted) but because it’s when the powers that be set the figure by which business rates will be increased next year.

It’s September again. A notable month, not just because of my birthday (all gifts gratefully accepted) but because it’s when the powers that be set the figure by which business rates will be increased next year.

No one really knows why it’s done in September, nor why the indicator used is the Retail Price Index, rather than the more appropriate Consumer Price Index. It’s probably just tradition, like wassailing, cricket whites and bankers’ bonuses.

The reason is lost in the mists of folklore, along with the fact that rates now have less to do with local services and functions, and serve more as a direct governmental business tax.

We know this because the man who is now Tory chairman implied as much recently. Which was odd, coming from a Conservative minister.

Another tradition is a call for a freeze on rates from the BRC and other concerned groups – an idea I can’t imagine garnering anything less than universal support from retailers, who next year could be hit with an increase of around 3.2%.

The final act in the pageant is the time-honoured deaf ear cocked by the Chancellor, after which we all cough up, grumble a bit, and carry on bearing our burdens like the amenable cash cows we all are.

Earlier this year, I tried to mount a campaign to fight the 5.6% increase that was imposed on us in April. I set up a Facebook page, a Linked-In group and a DirectGov petition calling for a rethink.  Disappointingly, after a fair bit of publicity, these attracted two members, four participants and 80 signatures respectively.

Crippling rates are now more than ever being cited as one of the principal reasons for store closures. Only last week Kurt Geiger highlighted how ridiculous they seem to business leaders outside the UK.

So, as the merry-go-round comes full circle, I wonder if we’ll finally break with tradition and do a bit more than just bellyache.

If so, I’m ready to join the fray again, only this time it would be nice to have a little more company.

  • Ian Middleton, Managing director and co-founder, Argenteus