Mail Room: VAT on listed buildings

Among the raft of VAT changes in the Chancellor’s Budget was the withdrawal of VAT relief on approved alterations to listed buildings. A number of constituents have got in touch with me about this, concerned that it will result in some of our most precious structures falling into disrepair as a result of the increased cost of maintaining them. You can see my response to constituents below:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding VAT exemptions on listed buildings.

You express your disappointment that the Chancellor’s actions in this year’s budget will have severe consequences for the heritage sector in Britain. You note from your own experience that the current zero-rate of VAT on work to listed buildings has made the difference between a project being viable or not.

I share your concerns that a consequence of these measures could be the increase in botched renovations which will have a damaging long term effect to some of the country’s finest architectural triumphs. It is also important to note that as well as the damage to heritage and tourism, the environmental effect of allowing these buildings to fall into disrepair could be widely damaging, causing demolitions and re-building projects. This flies in the face of the government’s supposed commitment to a green agenda.

Harriet Harman MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, has challenged the Government’s plans. She said:

“Listed buildings are our country’s heritage – our past and our values built into bricks and mortar. The Government’s plan to scrap the zero-rating for approved alterations, alterations which will allow them to continue serving their communities, threaten their future as well as their past.

“In his Easter message, the Prime Minister told the nation that the values of the church make our country what it is. But this year’s Budget threatens churches across the country that serve their congregations and wider communities.

“I urge the Government to reconsider.”

There has recently been a small victory, in large part down to the pressure put on the Government by campaigners such as yourself. The Government has  committed an additional £30 million for the Listed Places of Worship Scheme. My colleague Harriet Harman recently issued Labour’s response to this development:

“This Government’s u-turn is a victory for the campaign by churches and local communities against a wrong-headed proposal in the shambolic Budget.

“But it won’t help the National Trust, all the museums, galleries, theatres, libraries and community centres that are in listed buildings, and which are important for heritage, tourism and local communities. They will still be clobbered by the 20 per cent tax increase, so George Osborne must think again on this.”

I can assure you that Harriet and the rest of Labour’s front bench team will continue to urge the government to change their plans when the opportunity arises.

Of course if you would like to comment further on this issue, you can contact me by email on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

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