Sussex MPs urged to back grants for village hall VAT bills

Chairman of Rawson Hall David Robins at its grand reopening earlier this year (far left) with  MSDC Chairman Gorden Marples, Nellie and Cyril Lucas. 02-05-15. Pic Steve Robards SUS-150205-212550001
Chairman of Rawson Hall David Robins at its grand reopening earlier this year (far left) with MSDC Chairman Gorden Marples, Nellie and Cyril Lucas. 02-05-15. Pic Steve Robards SUS-150205-212550001
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Sussex MPs are being urged to back the introduction of Government grants to cover tax bills for village hall improvement projects.

Currently groups and volunteers have to pay 20 per cent Value-Added Tax (VAT) on building work to upgrade or rebuild their community facilities.

David Robins, chairman of both Bolney’s Rawson Hall and Sussex Village Halls Advisory Group, has asked newly elected Sussex MPs to write to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne asking him to introduce a grant scheme to refund VAT on building improvement projects for village halls and community buildings.

In his letter he said: “In the current financial climate when local authority community support budgets are reduced and under severe pressure this is holding up volunteer led projects that could deliver jobs as well as social benefit and wasting hard earned local fundraising efforts.”

MPs are also being urged to push for a national funding stream to contribute towards village hall advisors to be included in next month’s budget.

Mr Robins explained that Bolney’s new £1.2m village hall, which opened earlier this year, could not have been completed without the Action in Rural Sussex (AiRS) support service, which was ‘in jeopardy’ due to public spending cuts.

He added: “This service allows village halls to share their experiences with each other.

“Without this ‘one shop stop’ we would not have benefitted from the information sheets, legislative, constitutional and funding guidance that is available from the Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) Network, of which AiRS is a part.”

Both strands of the campaign are being backed by the National Village Halls Forum, which works on behalf of 10,000 community buildings in rural England.

Alan West, vice chairman of the forum and also chairman of Ringmer Village Hall, said their building project could not have got as far as it has without the help and experience from the ACRE Network village halls advisor provided by the AiRS.

He added: “Often the last remaining ‘community’ facilities are the village hall and church. Good facilities and active groups help maintain a vibrant, inclusive rural community.”

Mr West explained that it had taken years to fundraise for a small extension for Ringmer Village Hall and more than £40,000 will be ‘wasted’ on VAT that could be spent on better or more facilities.

What do you think? Have you had a similar problem with your village hall improvement project in Sussex? Comment below or email the newsdesk.

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