The BRC has called the government’s consultation on its proposed empty rates legislation a ‘sham’ and a ‘desperate attempt’ by Gordon Brown to portray the government as business friendly.

It said the government was continuing to ignore concerns from a whole host of business groups that the legislation will ‘pile nearly a billion pounds of costs onto owners and occupiers of shops, offices and factories’.

The government launched its consultation paper Modernising Empty Property Relief yesterday and said removing rate relief on empty properties would promote the efficient use of land and property. The consultation period will run until 1 October and it seeks views on proposal for the detailed reforms to be achieved through secondary legislation.

It will focus particularly on changes to exemption periods and new measures to tackles avoidance of empty property rates.

The BRC said the government was only asking for comment on minor matters and ‘on the principle of the tax the Government has made clear it will not even listen, leaving the consultation a charade’.

It said the government and failed to understand that empty properties are empty because they are not wanted at that time or place and new tax burdens will not change that.

BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said: ‘No one gains by keeping property empty. It’s unoccupied because there isn’t the demand for it at that time and place. Piling on taxes will not conjure up new tenants or drive down rents but it will weaken the prospects for local regeneration.’

The BRC also believes the legistlation is at odds with the new, government-backed, Leasing Code of Practice, which is meant to promote flexible leases. It said owners would look to push up rents and extend lease terms to reduce their risk from big tax bills when property is empty.