British Property Federation boss says new legislation is 'scandalous'

Councils have paid £690m in business rates on unoccupied property they own since the government's abolition of rates relief on empty buildings, according to the Business Centre Association.

The BCA said 320 local authorities and regional development agencies are paying the amount to the government, following a freedom of information request to find out exactly how much councils are having to fork out.

Last April, new legislation said warehouses that had stood empty for at least six months were subject to the rate. Shops and offices are eligible for the tax after only three months unoccupied.

This has seen a number of property owners carry out demolitions to avoid paying the tax - with opponents referring to the resultant outcome as “Bombsite Britain”.

The British Property Federation (BPF) has launched a cross-party attack on the tax and says it has 125 MPs backing House of Commons motions against the levy.

Liz Peace, the BPF chief executive, said: “If this figure is correct, it highlights the absolute scandalous way in which the government is damaging our communities with a tax on hardship.

“It is utter hypocrisy to be talking about helping business while making them pay empty rates, especially while hundreds of businesses are closing every week.”