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Churches Welcome Osborne's VAT Backdown 

Church leaders have welcomed George Osborne’s plans to increase grants to cover VAT increase on alterations to listed places of worship

On Thursday Mr Osborne announced an extra £30 million per year - on top of the £12m already there -  for the rest of this Parliament for the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, following intense lobbying on the back of his March budget.

Then the Chancellor announced he would be scrapping the current zero rate of VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings.

He insisted he was fixing an anomaly that allows ‘a millionaire to install a swimming pool in his listed mansion VAT-free.’

However, the Christian community quickly mobilised, arguing that the removal of the zero rating was unfair, given that many buildings have to be altered to comply with modern regulations, and that the tax would therefore impact their community work.

The Revd Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, was among those to lobby his local MP and encourage the signing of petitions.

Any listed Baptist church would have been affected. Although the church leaders would have preferred to retain zero rating, and that it remains unclear how keen future governments will be to keep the grant scheme topped up, they view it as a ‘fair and generous deal’ from the Government. The grant applies just to listed places of worship.

The Bishop of London the Revd Richard Chartres, described the increased grant as ‘an acknowledgment from Government of the unique heritage value to the nation of cathedrals and churches and the way in which these alterations are enabling them to serve their local communities in a range of ways alongside being centres of worship.’

Anne Sloman, chair of the Church Buildings Council said, ‘The fact that the Treasury offer went from £5million to £30million is a recognition of the tremendous value for money to the nation as a whole that our buildings represent.

‘We are grateful to parishes up and down the land who have lobbied so hard since the Budget to bring this point home to the government, and even more grateful for the massive contribution volunteers make by their efforts, week in and week out, to keep our beautiful churches in good repair for worship and adapted to serve the community in so many creative ways.’

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