The tax that small business owners pay on their premises has offered a useful lesson in how the ripples of a financial crisis can leave us floundering years later. It also laid bare a stark divide between north and south in the UK, and sent the ruling Conservative Party rushing to fend off the fury of small business owners, on whose support they could normally rely. Emotions are running high thanks to the 2017 revaluation of non-residential properties in England, Scotland and Wales. This is based on the market rent of premises at April 1, 2015 and has raised the prospect that some businesses will be saddled with huge increases in their bills; a fear that was acknowledged by the chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, in his first budget. Hammond introduced three measures designed to head off a row. It was no surprise that it included a headline-grabbing effort to soothe the nerves of Britain’s publicans, with the vast majority of pubs handed a £1,000 discount on their business rates. Hammond also capped at £50 the monthly payments for businesses who would find themselves paying rates for the first time and established a £300m fund to help owners who were struggling with increases. In truth these sops amount to small beer and are only part of the wider picture. The reality has been much misunderstood.