Some of the UK's biggest businesses have called for the Prime Minister to restore rate relief on empty buildings as the financial pain of the Government's attempt to raise new taxes from the commercial property sector starts to hit home.

British Airways, Tesco, McDonald's, Nokia and B&Q are among companies that have signed an open letter to Gordon Brown calling for an immediate reinstatement of the relief, which was scrapped in April in a move designed to raise £1.3bn.

The tax has been criticised as an extra financial burden on the struggling property sector, but it has also hit companies and organisations outside the sector that own real estate, including pension funds and local councils. ASDA, the supermarket group, has admitted to demolishing a call centre to avoid paying empty rates on the vacant building.

The Times