Labour to oppose VAT on church renovations
Not content with redefining marriage, subverting the Sabbath and mocking Christians in his own parliamentary party, David Cameron is about to bankrupt the Established Church. Either that, or watch passively as the bells are silenced, pipe organs degenerate into tunelessness, and hundreds of the nation’s most treasured listed building fall into a state of disrepair and ruin.
Along with George Osborne’s other Budget blunders (like taxing Cornish pasties and capping tax relief on charitable donations) he is landing the Church of England – the community nerve centre of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ – with an additional £20million tax bill every year by imposing VAT at 20 per cent on renovation projects.
As with the ‘pasty tax’, the Chancellor is seeking to correct an ‘anomaly’ in the VAT system – to ensure that millionaires in their Grade 1 listed mansions pay VAT when they install their swimming pools. But by trying to catch the few tax-avoiders/evaders, he is imposing a colossal tax on churches, which routinely need to deploy highly-specialised (and so expensive) crafts like bell-moulding, stone-carving or pipe organ repair.
The Church of England is responsible for 45 per cent of the country's Grade 1 listed buildings – some 12,500 architectural gems – to which all alterations are presently VAT-exempt. His Grace spotted the change on the day of the budget, but was not remotely concerned because the Government’s own analysis assured him that the present DCMS grant for the Listed Places of Worship Scheme would be sufficient to off-set the increase. They said:
The Government has extended the scope of the current grant scheme administered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Currently listed places of worship, of any faith or denomination, can claim a grant equal to the VAT paid on eligible repairs and maintenance works. From 1 Oct 2012 the scheme will include approved alterations to listed places of worshipAnd on the Government’s ‘equalities impact’ of the proposed change:
Places of Worship - Listed places of worship will also be affected by the change, although our evidence suggests that places of worship form only a small minority of the total number of listed properties in the UK. These will be predominantly used by Christian denominations. In order to mitigate the impacts on these groups the DCMS is expanding the existing Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme which refunds the VAT on repairs and maintenance work, so that this includes approved alterations to listed buildings.But it transpires that the grant is not to be expanded to anywhere near the tune of £20million, and that tax will indeed hit the Church of England hardest: ie, it falls foul of religious discrimination legislation.
There is no specific impact identified for any other equalities group.
We know that Labour are not particularly disposed to Christian concerns, but we must be grateful that Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman has
Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev’d Michael Langrish, said: “The VAT change shows muddled thinking on behalf of the Government. It is a poorly thought-out aspect of the Budget, and shows a complete misunderstanding on their behalf. They didn’t really think through the implications.”
The YouTube video above features Pamela Greener, wife of the Dean of Wakefield, who has composed a song about the plight of Wakefield Cathedral (and she performs it magnificently). Its renovations were commenced just a few days before the budget, at a cost of some £3million. Now they will need to find an additional £600,000 to pay the VAT bill.
An e-petition has been launched on the Downing Street website which urges the Chancellor to reconsider this at the same time as he U-turns on his philanthropy tax.
As part of the Christian ‘fightback’ urged by the Prime Minister in his Easter message, His Grace exhorts all of his readers and communicants to sign this petition and disseminate it far and wide. The Church of England is the heritage of the whole nation and the foundation of the Constitution. Burke summarised the imperatives of the British Constitution as an inheritable crown, an inheritable peerage, a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises and liberties from a long line of ancestors. Underlying all this, he concluded, was the will of God and an established Anglican Church supported by public taxes. It has long been the tradition of the Conservative Party to conserve these fundamentals. For a Conservative chancellor to tax the Church so disproportionately is not only extraordinary, unexpected and shameful; it is profoundly un-conservative.