IHBC, FMB etc. challenge chancellor on LB VAT raid threat to heritage and jobs

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), the professional body for built and historic environment conservation specialists, has co-signed a letter to the Chancellor urging him not to press ahead with the VAT raid on approved alterations to listed buildings because of the damage it will cause to heritage and jobs.

Charities such as the IHBC, the Heritage Alliance and the SPAB, as well as organisations as diverse as House Beautiful, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and the RIBA, are among those supporting the concerted campaign to challenge the Chancellor over the proposed tax take.

IHBC Chair Jo Evans said of the proposals to remove VAT relief from approved alterations to listed buildings that, ‘they represent a missed opportunity to rationalise VAT in ways that would benefit jobs, the environment and the economy by encouraging building care, maintenance and improvement’.

IHBC Director Seán O’Reilly said: “We are delighted at the recent news that the HMRC seems to be back-tracking on the proposals for listed places of worship, but that only confirms the real threat to the wider historic environment from the VAT raid.

More than ever, the urge now is to enhance and improve our historic buildings for future use, and new planning policies and climate change initiatives urge on us all the need to prepare our built stock for the 21st century.  So it seems especially perverse to scrap the sort of scheme that could not only underpin proper improvements in our most valued heritage, but also set standards for work across our wider stock of traditional buildings!

Jobs losses are also a real concern!  Our publication partners, Cathedral Communications, have advised us that there has been a worrying number of quality conservation firms going under, or into administration, over the past year. These include Killby & Gayford Group (255 staff), Linford-Bridgeman Limited (240 staff, including those of subsidiaries Dorothea Restorations and Trumpers), Holloway White Allom (170 staff).  As the removal of the zero rate will increase costs, it is perfectly obvious that the change will impose further strain on many specialist conservation businesses.”

Other companies hit by the downturn include the Bricknell Conservation Limited, C J Building Ltd, Period Property Preservation Ltd, J Oldham & Co (Stonemasons) Ltd, Cumbria Stone Quarries, Caradale Traditional Brick, Copsale Oak Ltd, Crane Forge Blacksmiths, G Burditt & Co Ltd, Cy-Pres (lime products), and Devereux Decorators Ltd. Many other specialist conservation companies are, like Stonewest, now a fraction of their former size.

Extracts fom the letter to the Chancellor:

We are writing to urge you to reverse the decision to remove the zero rate of VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings announced in the Budget. It is quite apparent that the impact of this decision will have many serious consequences for the economy and our historic environment. Within a short period of time a large amount of evidence has appeared to demonstrate the disruption that the removal of the zero rate of VAT has caused to planned building projects, which points to a worrying future for the UK’s heritage assets…

Furthermore, this change will clearly have an adverse effect on the construction industry, causing projects to be cancelled or curtailed.  Apprenticeship places will be put at risk, closing the door on the next generation of tradespeople with specialist heritage construction skills and making it even harder to look after our historic buildings in the future. It is apparent that the decline in construction sector output helped drag the economy back into recession in the first quarter of 2012. Therefore, it is very hard to understand any decision that leads to a further fall in construction activity at this time. Far from encouraging a sustainable private sector led economic recovery; this decision will further hold back growth in important sectors of the economy…

All owners of a listed property, regardless of their status, are restricted by planning and conservation rules, which are designed to protect these important buildings against inappropriate changes. Alterations are already controlled by the need for Listed Building Consent and a large amount of time and money must be spent before an owner can even get to the stage where consent has been granted. Therefore, removing the zero rate of VAT takes away the incentive to apply for Listed Building Consent and is likely to lead to owners ignoring the consent system. This achieves the exact opposite of the Government’s stated aims…

The letter is signed by the senior officers of the 17 subscribing oprganisations.

For details see: LINK

For background links see: LINK

Download the letter to the chancellor HERE: LINK

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