A coalition led by the British Property Federation (BPF) is calling for the government to reinstate empty rates relief  and help retailers who have had to close stores. 

The group says that already struggling businesses are being crippled by full rates bills despite the fact that their stores are no longer trading.

The relief was removed by the Government in April of 2008 and although the government did announce an empty rates ‘holiday’ from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 in its Pre-Budget Report, this only applies to properties with values of less than £15,000 and would exclude 87% of business rate payers.

According to the BPF, the number of vacant shops in the UK rose from 63,500 in December of last year to 90,000 in February. This works out at 450 shops a day forced to stop trading and still having to pay full property rates.

“Making firms face the double hit of recession and then a tax on that recession that will simply make things much worse, and that’s what we’re seeing,” said BPF chief executive Liz Peace.

“Empty rates isn’t just hitting big firms retailers who may be closing stores, it’s hitting individuals who may have owned a post office closed down by the government,” she added. “With every passing day Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson are digging a bigger hole for us to climb out of.”

The BPF has also launched a website, www.emptyrates.com, to update those affected by the abolition of empty rates relief as well as well as giving them an opportunity to make themselves heard by the government.

The campaign is supported by over thirty trade bodies, politicians, public bodies and businesses including the British Property Federation, British Retail Consortium and the Federation of Small Businesses.