Rate rises are coming. They could wreck the UK's retail and small business economy. In London alone business rates will rise by over £9 billion. Couple that with retail rents (still rising), and it's like being bitten by two sychronised sharks.
My favourite bookshop in Marylebone will suffer a 100% rate rise. Bookshops, like libraries, are the last refuge of the civilised. Hidden in the best books is the truth. And the truth, as the Man said long ago, sets you free.
If rates and rents silence our remaining independent bookshops, we will all be the poorer. With rents on Marylebone reaching Monaco-like levels, the rates rise will probably shut my local bookshop. The space it leaves will doubtless become an outlet selling planet-destroying coffee capsules or grossly over priced miniaturised moisturising creams. And another corner of civilisation will have closed.
This country needs a thriving retail sector. We are not, as Napoleon said, a nation of shop keepers. We are a nation of shoppers. Only the great British public's insistence on spending like it's 1999 has saved the UK's post-referendum economy.
We should recognise this, limit the rate rises and bring in more generous exemption and transition arrangements for smaller retail businesses.
In future, we should phase in steady rate rises over many years. Not leave them alone as politically toxic for decades and then raise them all in one rush. We have to stop running our tax system on a political basis and start running it for the long term good of the country.
The alternative is an essay crisis approach to policy, and we've seen what that can do.
UK business owners already pay more than any other country in Europe, but are facing huge hikes following a two-year delay in reassessment