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VAT plans threat to Norwich cathedral and Norfolk churches

PUBLISHED: 08:16 16 April 2012 | UPDATED: 11:10 16 April 2012

The Very Revd Graham Smith, Dean of Norwich, signed the letter warning the Government over introducing VAT on restoration work. Photo: Bill Smith.

The Very Revd Graham Smith, Dean of Norwich, signed the letter warning the Government over introducing VAT on restoration work. Photo: Bill Smith.

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Church leaders today warned some of the region’s best-loved buildings would struggle to be maintained, if the government pressed on with plans to tax restoration work.

The dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Graham Smith, said the maintenance of Norwich Cathedral, voted Norfolk’s favourite building, would be jeopardised if chancellor George Osborne introduced VAT to the restoration of churches and cathedrals.

If the tax is introduced, ending VAT relief, costs will soar by 20pc.

The Very Rev Smith said: “To effectively put another 20pc on the costs would mean that we would do less maintenance.

“The buildings would fall into disrepair.”

He claimed that the imposition of the tax would not mean the government got more money, but would result in less maintenance of historic buildings.

The dean, who returned from a 10-week trip to Zimbabwe on Saturday, where he met the bishop of Harare, said: “It is an extremely important issue. The question of maintaining cathedrals is of national importance, never mind religious importance.

“We have this magnificent heritage which is part of our national identity. To Norfolk people it is of enormous importance.”

It costs £3,700 a day – £1.35m a year – to keep Norwich Cathedral open, without including major repairs, which the dean said run into an additional six-figure sum most years.

Much of the work is funded through volunteers at the Friends of Norwich Cathedral, but the dean argued that people would be put off donating money, knowing that 20pc of it would go to the government.

Norwich’s vice-dean Jeremy Haselock and the dean co-signed a letter in yesterday’s Sunday Times, with 21 other deans from cathedrals across the country, urging the chancellor to drop the plans.

In the letter they argue that paying VAT would “seriously jeopardise the sustainability of our great buildings”.

The deans also question how the tax on alteration work fits in with the government’s ‘big society’ agenda, when much of the restoration and maintenance work is done by volunteers and charities.

The letter reads: “Cathedrals –like so many churches and community buildings that will be affected by this change – rely on the generosity of charitable trusts and private donors, as well as volunteer fund-raising, to keep their fabric in good repair and fit for purpose in today’s world.

“Our listed status controls the quality of the materials and the craftsmanship we use.

“Raising a further 20pc on top of these already elevated costs is likely to prove unmanageable.”

The tax introduction on restoration work was announced in Mr Osborne’s budget and has also provoked criticism from the National Trust, which fears that homeowners living in listed properties would face rising bills.

The deans added: “We sincerely hope that the chancellor, George Osborne, will allow the present consultation to reshape his thinking on his VAT proposals, and decide to change his policy to one that will support rather than damage our nation’s heritage.”

comment – page 16

12 comments

  • I'd rather see lottery funding going to pay a stonemason to carve a window for a Norfolk church than to someone to ride a BMX in the Olympics.

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • Joolie frum carsey - How right you are! Couldn`t agree more Having had the pleasure of reading up on the proposals the Dean and his colleagues have been rather hasty in their pronouncements on this one. Anyone interested in reading the facts for themselves, which gives a totally different story, should read the parliamentary briefing paper at www.parliament.ukbriefing-papersSN01051.pdf

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    Hereandthere

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • It is about time churches paid some tax. We atheists have to pay for religious bodies such as the Anglican & Catholic churches and have no choice in the matter, in the form of taxes.

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    NorthStarRaven

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • They will need to get some bigger collection plates. Oh damn they have VAT slapped on them to.

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    banned user

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • I wonder if receiving the Sacrament qualifies as having a prepared meal? Is it subject to VAT?

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • Well the budget managed to upset everybody else,so why should the church be left out? If the bungling old etonians want to commit electoral suicide it's ok in my book! When right wing newspapers like the Daily Mail weigh in with criticism it's time to beat a retreat.Best not canvass anybody retired that goes to church if you are a tory candidate,oh I forgot these people are those that used to vote conservative!

    Report this comment

    Harry Rabinowitz

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • Just to clarify. Stonemasons who undertake work on church buildings, already pay VAT on materials and tools, now the job itself is also taxable. I wish those diocese well in their campaign to recind this tax, its OTT.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • Either the church is being disingenuous or doesn't actually understand the proposed change. Repairs and maintenance have long been taxable, and the change proposed relates to alterations only, i.e.improvements. To say this will “seriously jeopardise the sustainability of our great buildings” is hence bending the truth somewhat.

    Report this comment

    Count

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • We have all paid VAT on home improvements for years so what is the church saying? Do away with VAT on all improvements full stop, or continue making them an exception. Osborne is right in my book. Everyone should be treated exactly the same. Including chip shops who have long paid VAT and bakers of hot pasties and sausage rolls who at long last are now having to pay VAT.

    Report this comment

    Hereandthere

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • let them spend their lotto grant cash wisely.

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    bookworm

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • I am an atheist but would want to see all our church and other listed buildings preserved because of our cultural history. The church will need little excuse to divert funding to keeping open the buildings where their new style congregations meet, meaning that our little round towered churches could fall into ruins. If buildings are old and listed and being renovated in accordance with set rules VAT should not be paid.

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, April 16, 2012

  • The Round Tower Churches Society has given over £140,000 in repair grants in recent years, not bad for a society with less than 600 members and no wealthy donors. This new tax will hit our ability to help these much loved buildings. www.roundtowers.org.uk

    Report this comment

    paul hodge

    Monday, April 16, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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