The Bishop of Chichester criticises new VAT charges

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MORE churches could be forced to introduce admission fees after changes to VAT rules, a senior bishop has warned.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Rev John Hind, said the chancellor’s decision to start charging VAT on alterations to listed buildings could have a big impact on the Church of England’s 12,300 listed buildings.

Fears have been raised it could mean some of the region’s historic buildings fall into disrepair as people are discouraged to make improvements.

Previously, the cost of alterations to listed buildings was not liable for VAT.

But in his budget, George Osborne said it would be levied at the standard rate of 20 per cent, in line with repairs and maintenance.

As reported in a national Sunday newspaper, Bishop Hind said the changes would affect ordinary local people who raise millions of pounds a year to look after churches.

He said: ‘It will increase the pressure on large churches and cathedrals to introduce admission charges.

‘Of course, some already do that, but many, including my cathedral, as a matter of principle do not charge for admission and wish to remain in that position.’

There is currently no entrance charge at Portsmouth Cathedral, but Winchester Cathedral does charge a fee.

Bishop Hind added: ‘I very much hope the government will be prepared to think again before the law is changed.’