BCA Empty Property Rates campaign triggers House of Commons debate

  • MPs criticise “unfair” and “regressive” Empty Property Rates policy
  • -The Localism Bill will not alleviate the Empty Property Rates crisis says the Business Centre Association

The Business Centre Association is calling on the Government to accelerate Empty Property Rates (EPR) reform after its campaign triggered a debate in the House of Commons this week.

Calling for a fundamental Government review of EPR, Julian Sturdy MP described the tax as “an enemy of enterprise” and “a blunt instrument...a barrier to investment and regeneration which particularly affects the North.”

He added: “To penalise a property owner whose property falls vacant in recessionary times is not a prescription for economic recovery but a recipe for economic stagnation.”

Business centre operators have been forced to operate under a heavy financial burden since Government slashed the Empty Property Rate threshold from
£18,000 RV to £2,600 RV in April 2011.

During the debate MPs agreed that:

• The current exemption period is too short for commercial property, and does not give sufficient time for landlords to find new occupiers.

• Areas that are directly outside the new enterprise zones are being hardest hit by this form of regressive taxation.

• It is unrealistic to expect commercial properties and business centres to achieve 100 per cent occupancy because access to flexible space is a fundamental requirement for many small businesses.
Mr Sturdy praised the BCA’s proposals that the Government reinstate the EPR threshold to £18,000 RV and allow new and refurbished units an exemption period of three years.

Responding to the debate, the BCA’s executive director Jennifer Brooke said:

“Whilst we warmly welcome this debate which highlights the severe hardships caused by EPR, a rapid and more consistent Government response to this problem is urgently required.

“The Government has indicated that businesses will be able to appeal directly to their local authorities for EPR relief when the Local Government Finance Bill becomes law in April 2013. Rather than alleviating the problem, this will lead to significant inconsistencies across the United Kingdom and will create further uncertainty for investors.

“Business centres are playing a vital role in the UK economy by supporting more than 40,000 SMEs and start ups. The benefits of raising the

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