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UK government’s empty property tax ‘holiday’ branded cynical and pathetic

Chancellor Alistair Darling said 70% of properties would be helped by a year long exemption for properties with an estimated value of less than £250,000 starting in April next year.

However, property owners across the UK say the announcement on Monday will help virtually no one and the government's figures includes cash machines, advertising hoardings and other things no one would regard as 'properties'.

The situation has resulted in owners of empty properties demolishing them rather than pay the rates on an empty building. It includes high profile companies like supermarket giant Asda.

The British Property Federation, which has been leading the campaign against what is calls 'bombsite Britain', said the announcement was no more than spin. 'This will do nothing to avert demolitions. Only the smallest properties will be saved in what can only be described as a very cynical and short term response to a massive, long term burden on business,' said Liz Peace, chief executive of the BPF.

'In theory the government's figures include the sites of ATM machines. The chancellor hasn't addressed the problems of empty rates, firms will continue to be put under by this and it won't help to prevent demolitions one iota,' said Roger Littlewood, taxation manager at HBOS.

Martin Guest, managing director of the Birmingham office of CB Richard Ellis, said that in reality it will only affect smaller landlords. 'This is a major blow for regeneration and investment prospects. The size of the concession means that many property owners will be forced to continue with a demolition strategy,' he added.

Martyn Matthews, of Duchy Estates in Cornwall, said it was not enough. 'Many property owners will be bankrupt from rates before next April and the situation isn't going to dramatically change over the course of a year. The chancellor has not gone far enough,' he pointed out.

Peter Roberts, the owner of an empty night club in Bristol, said he is facing a rates bill of £20,000. 'I have tried to rent the property for no cost at all but there is no demand. I have tried selling the property but there are no buyers. If something is not done in the coming months I face serious financial problems. It is not a happy situation. It is totally unfair, unjust, and illogical,' he said.

'This is a pathetic and cynical response to a very real problem for the property sector. The government has tried to fob off those providing premises to smaller businesses with a one year break. It will do nothing to encourage the speculative investment and risk taking required by property owners in all sectors to get the economy moving again,' said John Varley, director for Clinton Devon Estates in Devon.