Local government minister Phil Woolas has defended his plans to reduce business rate relief on empty properties. Independent on Sunday

Ministers are preparing changes so business rates are paid even when a property is empty in an attempt to push landlords into selling or redeveloping empty properties rather than leaving them boarded up. The move is widely expected to drive down commercial rents.

Woolas said: 'No one wants to live or work next to an empty property, and it is frankly daft for the state to subsidise it when commercial rents are so high. That is why a package of reforms that will drive down those rents, encourage business growth and promote brownfield development is needed.

'As well as reforming empty property rates, from this month new capital allowances are available to renovate or convert unused businesses in deprived areas. [The reforms] will ensure the UK remains an excellent place to do business and to invest.'