I’m normally not political. I can just about get off my arse to vote but that’s about all.
The reason for this political apathy is that I’ve always lived in a staunchly Liberal constituency. Any vote, either way, has always felt like some kind of throw-away, wasted protest and, without proportional representation, has felt, more or less, like a lost vote.
Blogging, has on the other hand, given me an outlet in which I can ‘rant and shake my fist’ when irked by something I’ve thought was unfair. I might not be able to do much else, but at least squeaking a little protest is better than remaining mute, and quite often I get an apology and my money back.
Lately, I’ve been squeaking my feelings related to the injustice of the Pasty Tax. Small pie to the rest of the UK maybe. But for one of the poorest regions in Europe it means 150 million in revenue and 13,000 jobs. Added to which, charge VAT on the pasty and it’ll damage the nature of our food industry here in Cornwall to the tune of £30 million and more.
For a while, my blog stats started climbing through the roof. People were tweeting the link to my post. Journalists, politicians and lobbyists were reading it (oh so I’d like to think). Then the Western Morning News called me to ask if they could publish my post, and I was even invited to speak at a Pasty Protest March. I declined because I’m shy…
My brother, an archaeologist and historic buildings surveyor, has always been hot on preserving our ‘bricks and mortar’ heritage. If something, old and beautiful is under threat he’s quick to speak out. He writes reports, strongly evidenced and reasoned documents, to stir the apathy of others into action. Preserving history is his life blood and when it comes to stupid, sweeping policy changes that threaten old buildings worth saving he’s the archetypal die-hard, albeit old-fashioned, political lobbyist.
He pointed out that while I’m waving my pasty, the government is quietly slipping past a proposal to charge VAT on alterations to listed buildings. Repair work on listed buildings is already subject to VAT and a campaign for relief has been ongoing for many years.
In my dear old brother’s words: “It is the Chancellor’s proposal to add VAT to consented adaptation of listed buildings as well that is the issue at the moment. It is necessary to be able to adapt old buildings to new uses to save many of them. Adapting to new uses particularly affects churches. The government’s ill-considered measure adds insult to injury by making it doubly difficult to care for such historic places, especially as so many of them are in community use and all of them are part of our collective national heritage.”
Not many people realise that if you build something brand new is VAT free. Letting old buildings crumble because communities can’t afford to maintain or adapt them to new uses is hardly sustainable while, arguably, others are incentivised to demolish or develop on green fields. The added 20% of VAT is likely to push fund-raisers too far and will result in beautiful but disused buildings right across Britain come crumbling down around our ears.
I pointed out, that I might be able to reach more people through my blog, than he could in his old letter-writing format…
He threw his gauntlet at me and now I’m challenged to whip up another little flicker of interest from the wider community that this little blog might reach.
I’m wondering, how many people care if Churches and old Community Buildings are left to die?
I’d love to know what other people think before I add my own views on this tax levy in my next post.
But for those who can’t wait, the Government has published draft legislation designed to introduce this change to the current VAT system and is seeking views from interested parties. The consultation is open until Friday 4 May and the details of how to respond are available online here.
In the meantime, Wakefield Cathedral explains why this VAT is anti-community.
- Wakefield Cathedral dean’s wife takes on George Osborne in YouTube song (guardian.co.uk)
- Pasty tax leaves a bitter taste for business (simplybusiness.co.uk)
- VAT hike to hit listed buildings (hartlepoolmail.co.uk)
- Hurd attacks church VAT rise plan (bbc.co.uk)
- Churches are the unintended victims of VAT changes (itv.com)
- Church fights VAT fees for building work (independent.co.uk)