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Pickles Needs to Stop Treating Businesses With Contempt

29/01/2013 15:30 GMT | Updated 31/03/2013 10:12 BST

Eric Pickles and Brandon Lewis used to host a radio show on Phoenix FM. Thankfully, it's no longer on air though the political duo seem determined to revive their audio crimes. Touring studios and popping up everywhere, the Eric and Brandon tag team have had a lot to say about council tax rises of late.

Their shock jock diatribe runs something like this. "Democracy dodgers, cheating councils! How dare councils treat residents with contempt and put up council taxes above two per cent without a referendum!"

That they've had to resort to a wild eyed rant to cover up their flawed legislation, which allows councils to do just that, is one thing. But the fact they're oblivious to the hypocrisy they're guilty of when it comes to how this government treats small businesses is something else.

I should say from the outset that I don't want to see any council tax rises this year or next. But you can't axe funding to local government in such a colossal way and expect councils to do nothing.

Listen to Pickles and Lewis, though, and you'd think this government has never put up a tax without first speaking to people and winning over hearts and minds.

"I do have an issue if they don't ask permission first", says Pickles of councils that put up taxes. "They have to man up. Be straight with people. Take them into their confidence."

If there was ever a worse case of double standards then I've yet to see it. In case Pickles and Lewis have forgotten, they are putting up business rates above two per cent this year in the face of huge opposition by businesses, many of whom will go bust as a result. Did they 'man up' and take small businesses into their confidence before doing this? No. Just as they didn't last year when they introduced the biggest increase in business rates in 20 years.

From day one of this parliament, Pickles and Lewis have treated small businesses with contempt - and it doesn't stop there. To huge consternation in the business community they've cancelled a revaluation of business rates this year to make sure properties are tied to a 2008 rating close to the peak of the property boom. This means thousands of small businesses are stuck with over-inflated rates.

Pickles and Lewis didn't consult with anyone when they rushed this through, despite the fact Mary Portas branded it "a tragedy for the high street" and the British Property Federation called it a policy that "embeds injustices in the current system." The business community is against it and even the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, is against it.

Many people are now openly questioning what they're getting for these huge business rates, set by DCLG. One of my constituents recently had his shop window smashed and was told by police to investigate it himself and go round to the pub and ask if anyone had seen anything.

So the next time you hear Eric Pickles slip into his soft Yorkshire burr and start talking about being straight with people, don't be fooled by his snake oil salesman act. Or his macho talk of manning up. The Eric and Brandon show is still making cheap shots - and it's still treating small businesses with contempt.