W hen Gordon Brown stood up to deliver what is likely to be his last Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer he made it clear he had developed a 'Budget for Business.' In a package of measures, which included a reduction in corporation tax, he confidently pronounced this made the UK the most competitive economy in Europe.
Unfortunately for many that operate in the convenience sector and for small businesses in particular, the Chancellor's rhetoric was more like a kick in the teeth.
His tax cuts for large corporations come at the expense of major increases in small business taxes - which will increase from 20% to 22% by 2009 - and increases in duty on alcohol and tobacco that fuel the black market in smuggled goods.
In the same week, we also heard from the Lyons Inquiry into Local Government finance about proposals for new powers for local authorities to levy a further 4% on local business rates to pay for local infrastructure projects.
This makes grim reading for small retail businesses that are battling to compete with the big grocery companies and the major investment they have at their disposal. Brown has spoken at length about the importance of small businesses and encouraged entrepreneurship.
In fact, it was as a result of previous Budgets that a number of small businesses were encouraged to incorporate, and now they are faced with a big increase in their tax liability. Many will feel cheated, especially as the Chancellor's tax breaks on reinvestment are largely inapplicable for most retailers.
The reduction in corporation tax has been welcomed in the City. However, it points towards a worrying 'big is best' tendency in Brown's thinking. In grocery this means benefits for dominant companies, and retailers would be justified in smarting at yet another advantage to pile on top of the many advantages the government has already allowed these dominant businesses. These must not extend to how the potential prime minister views the issue of competition problems in the grocery market.
The issue of local taxes may be even more significant. The Lyons Review into Local Government has been going for more than three years and has looked at options such as giving tax-setting powers back to individual local authorities.
While the review hasn't gone as far as that, it has gone a long way towards suggesting new business rate raising powers for individual local authorities.
Apart from providing local politicians with powers to increase revenue without putting up voters' council tax bills, the real worry is what this new tax would fund.
These projects invariably involve a cost that everyone has to pay, for improvements that may only benefit a few. In retail the number of town centre or retail-park centred initiatives invariably do nothing for retailers that locate away from those concentrations.
While Gordon Brown's recent record does not fill us with hope, our job is to convince the changing government to get serious about providing an economic and policy environment that gives small retailers a chance to compete. This includes taxes, employment costs, and holiday entitlements, as well as looking at how the retail market is skewing towards bigger players.
The ACS will continue to lobby the Treasury and across government for a fair deal for the convenience sector. Now more than ever, the small business community must make itself heard.