I absolutely agree.
The Government, in their consultation document, claim that the impact of the change on churches will be small, but that is not the case. Some 45% of grade I listed buildings in England are maintained by the Church of England, including 42 cathedrals. Their upkeep is incredibly expensive, and there are no central funds available for building maintenance.
A very large proportion of the alterations made to churches are about making them easier for the community to use, including, for example, installing disabled toilets, kitchens and so on, but the charge will also hit traditional skills and crafts, such as bell hanging and organ building. About £100 million is spent on those works annually, and imposing 20% VAT on them will add £20 million a year to those bills. In reality, much of the work will simply stop, and that will hit local churches, local communities and the building trade—and it will not raise a single extra penny for the Treasury.
The Prime Minister said earlier today at Prime Minister’s questions that the Government would be giving churches the money that they need to make up the loss, but that is also not the case. The compensation being offered in the Budget by extending the listed places of worship grant scheme, which currently refunds the VAT liable on repairs, is a wholly inadequate way to meet the extra cost that the VAT rise will create.
The Government have already cut the listed places of worship grant scheme by a massive two thirds, from £23 million to £7 million a year, and it already covers less than half the cost of current repairs.