The Church of England has spoken out against cuts which threaten to take an estimated £1 million a month out of its coffers.
The Archbishops’ Council’s Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division issued a statement following the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s announcement today, regarding intermediate cuts to the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWGS).
Under LPWGS, a grant scheme introduced in April 2001 and due to continue until March 2011, VAT charged on eligible works is returned directly to churches which have undertaken repairs on their buildings.
Currently around £12 million is refunded each year in England alone – with approximately 93 per cent going to Church of England churches and cathedrals.
Intermediate cuts announced today by the DCMS state that from 4th January to 31st March 2011, it will no longer be possible to recover VAT on professional fees for works and repair works to organs, bells, clocks and pews undertaken in that time period.
Chair of the Church Buildings Council, Anne Sloman, said: “Given a choice between a reduction in the grant across the board for all repair work on churches, or maintaining the full grant for most works, we reluctantly went for the exclusion of some items during this period. However, we do particularly regret that we will no longer be able to recover VAT on professional fees because of the value the church places on the contribution that architects and other professional advisers make to the preservation and development of church buildings. The Church continues to press the case for the retention of the scheme in full beyond March 2011.
“If the LPWGS is not renewed beyond March 2011, the VAT that is currently recoverable on repairs will become a second extra cost, and the extra money that congregations will have to find to spend on the roof and other repairs, needed to get buildings into a good state, will no longer be a available for those works needed to re-order the church for community use.
“In many rural areas, churches are the only public buildings left, providing space for post offices, community shops, meeting rooms, play groups and so on. In inner cities, where the vicar is often the only professional still resident in deprived areas, they can provide drop-in centres, and a safe neutral space for a whole range of social service and counselling activities.
“The Government has indicated that it wishes to encourage the Church of England to continue making its 16,200 buildings available to serve the wider community beyond the worshipping congregation.
“Therefore the Church continues to press the case for the retention of the scheme in full beyond March 2011.”