Alistair Darling's pre-budget report revealed on Monday that empty property rates will only be scrapped for properties with a rateable value of less than £15,000 – a reform that the Business Centre Association (BCA), has long been lobbying for from the Government.

Jennifer Brooke, executive director of BCA explained: “We are delighted at the gesture made by the Chancellor but deeply disappointed that it is for just one year which is unlikely to make any significant inroads into restoring stability to the commercial property sector but is a step in the right direction, offering a little help to the UK's small business communities.

“Critically, as the relief is a temporary measure for the financial year 2009/2010 it will do little to encourage refurbishment of existing properties and the development of new, speculative business centres.

“We urge the Chancellor to undertake a comprehensive review of the rating system which will highlight the devastation caused by empty property rates legislation rather than reinstate this ill-timed, ill-thought out tax. To encourage business, irrespective of size, we need a long term solution to rating reform without the anomalies the current empty property rates legislation has created.

“The rates relief offered by Mr Darling will do nothing to alleviate job losses and a freeze on recruitment will bring increased unemployment figures, which will see the treasury lose out on significant revenue that would have been gained through employment taxes. Empty property rates have a far reaching and crippling effect across the economic spectrum and this cannot be trivialised or ignored by the Chancellor.”

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