Stockport’s MP has called on the Government to extend its support for places of worship and help them through the ongoing pandemic.
The Listed Places of Worship (LPW) Grant Scheme, which provides support towards the VAT incurred in making repairs and carrying out alterations to listed buildings mainly used for public worship, is currently due to end in April.
Navendu Mishra has written to the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage and raised the concerns of Stockport Heritage Trust and a number of places of worship across his constituency.
Last June, Mr Mishra pushed the Government to extend the scheme, but was informed that a decision was being postponed on account of the Covid crisis, with the Treasury and other Whitehall departments focused on tackling the pandemic. At the time, the Minister said:
‘The Government is fully committed to supporting listed places of worship and has committed to the present level of funding until March 2021. An extension to the scheme is on hold until the completion of the Spending Review, which has been delayed from July to later this year to ensure that HM Treasury and departments can remain focused on responding to the immediate public health and economic emergency.’
In his letter today to Nigel Huddleston MP, Mr Mishra acknowledged the ongoing lockdown but said:
‘I recognise that this is still very much the case however Stockport Heritage Trust and many other local places of worship rely upon the scheme and I would seek clarity about the future of the scheme. The uncertainty continues to have a negative impact on restoration plans for the future. The ability to claim back the VAT on eligible repair works and associated professional fees is vital to organisations such as Stockport Heritage Trust.
‘In light of the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in – the final 12 months of the Listed Place of Worship Scheme has not been utilised. The lockdowns and the inability of governing meetings has resulted in many being unable to progress restoration projects.’
Mr Mishra highlighted the many benefits to the scheme being extended, including providing much-needed funds at a time when many places of worship remain closed.