Like any other disgruntled constituent, Theo Paphitis often takes his problems to his local MP. It just so happens that the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge who listens while the former Dragons’ Den star gets something off his chest is Philip Hammond, the Chancellor.
Handy when you consider the entrepreneur’s biggest beef is the unfairness of business rates which pour close to £30bn a year into Treasury coffers but are routinely blamed for squeezing the life out of Britain’s high streets.
“We’ve had words in the past but we are still talking which is important,” says Paphitis, whose empire stretches across the Ryman stationery chain, homewares retailer Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue, a lingerie seller.
After last week’s Budget, the words may be choicer next time. Although Paphitis says Hammond is an “incredibly sensible guy”, he is angry that he did not go further while stood at the Dispatch Box.
“Anyone that knows anything about retail would tell him that this minor relief to our industry will make no difference to the continued demise of the once great British high street,” Paphitis says, lambasting plans for temporary rates relief for small retailers and restaurateurs plus a £675m “special projects” fund. “The Chancellor was quick to tell us retailers that times are changing and we should adapt accordingly. I, and no doubt many others, found that particularly insulting.”