After announcing in the most recent budget plans to tax alterations to listed places of worship at 20%, George Osborne received widespread criticism for placing Britain’s historic environment in jeopardy. Mr Timms as well as many leading figures in the Church of England – which maintain 45% of England’s Grade 1 listed buildings – wrote to the Chancellor to express concern.
Mr Osborne has now announced, after discussions with the CofE, that whilst he would not be willing to retain the zero rated VAT for listed places of worship, he would be increasing the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme by £30 million per year. The increased fund is to be accompanied by an extension in its scope to include alterations as well as repairs.
Speaking after the announcement, Mr Timms said: “As the Labour Party’s faith envoy, I was extremely concerned by the Chancellor’s decision not to retain the zero rating for tax on these vital alterations. I am glad to see that Mr Osborne has recognised the error in his original judgement and I welcome the changes made to the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme. Whilst I still believe that retaining the zero rated VAT is the best way to protect the heritage value of the UK’s listed places of worship, the announcement does clearly represent an improvement on what would have been a dire situation.”