The British Property Federation has condemned the Government's Spending Review for missing the opportunity to cut empty property rates.
The BPF made the statement following Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's review and the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, stating that retail sales fell for a second month in a row.
“It wasn’t all cheer for retailers and commercial property owners in the Comprehensive Spending Review, at a time when the retail sector is showing signs of fragile recovery," said Liz Peace, chief exec of the BPF.
“Despite calling for an end to empty property rates in our submission to ministers before the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review, this burden is still in place and seriously damaging the retail sector as a whole.”
Previously, empty shops were liable for half their rates bills, but since then have been taxed for the full amount – despite the lack of rental income. According to the BPF, the tax hurts occupiers as much as landlords since retailers own their own shops or have long term leases they can't walk away from.
Peace added: “The enhanced economic activity that would have resulted from reinstating this relief would have compensated for a substantial part of the lost tax revenue, whilst also helping the retail sector back onto its feet as an estimated 490,000 public sector workers seek alternative work over the coming years and the UK economy looks to keep its head above water.”