Chief whip Nick Brown has thrown his weight behind calls to reinstate empty property rates relief – in direct contrast to the message from business minister Lord Mandelson and the tax’s architect, local government minister John Healey.
Brown slammed the tax as ‘destructive’ and hinted that exemption in some areas may be granted.
A week ago, Lord Mandelson called the tax ‘good for business’, but MPs’ rebellion over the tax – more than 120 have signed commons motions against the tax – could force the government into a u-turn.
MPs are now hoping that there will be some element of relief introduced at next week’s pre budget report following their campaign and the Property Week and British Property Federation’s campaigns against the tax.
This week, the BPF will make a final representation to the government over empty rates. The Urban Regeneration Companies executives group, led by Leicester chief John Nicholls, have also submitted a dossier of evidence on demolitions caused by empty rates.
Labour MP Chris Mullin, with colleague John Cummings, have also met with the Treasury recently and Brown suggested they had ‘got somewhere’.
He said: ‘I do think the government could look at granting relief. We are in a position where people are pulling buildings down, which is an unintentional but destructive consequence of this, and the way to avert that is to grant relief.’
Eric Pickles, Tory local government spokesman, said: ‘The fact Labour’s own Chief Whip is leading this tax revolt shows just how damaging this levy is.’
BPF director Peter Cosmetatos said: ‘It would be highly cynical to offer relief just to areas where the government may lose seats. But the chancellor has an opportunity to make a small tax concession that would hugely help businesses survive the current economic bloodbath. It is vital he uses the pre-Budget report to do this, sending a clear message that the government wants to support, not hinder, recovery.'