In his pre-budget statement in the House of Commons on November 8th, Gordon Brown said he had asked the European Commission for permission to reduce the VAT on church repairs from 17½% to 5%.
"I welcomed this", says Michael Fabricant, "as I am conscious that churches in our area can ill afford maintenance and repairs and a 17½% surcharge makes matters still more difficult. This problem is particularly acute in a Cathedral City like Lichfield.
"But now it appears from an answer to a question Dr Caroline Jackson MEP put to the European Commission that there is no possibility of this reduction – not because of any reticence on the part of the Commission but purely because Gordon Brown and the European Council of Ministers voted against any reduction in VAT for renovations and repairs!
"This is a huge disappointment for our numerous historic churches in Staffordshire and the midlands, many of which are faced with massive repair bills. At the very least, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should apologise for raising false hopes."