One in eight town centre shops now lies vacant, according to the British Retail Consortium, prompting calls for the government to freeze business rates to help restore the health of the high street.

In a report published today by the BRC, the industry body is urging the government not to impose higher business rates on already struggling retailers and to offer relief from empty property taxes.

'High streets need central government backing,' the BRC says. 'This is not going to happen by accident or magic: there has to be a considered plan.'

A government revaluation of business rates – due to take effect next April – is expected to hit London the worst with an average rate rise before inflation of 10%.

Financial Times, Daily Telegraph