St Nicholas organ fund hit after VAT move

AN extra �60,000 has to be found to restore the organ at St Nicholas Parish Church – thanks to government cutbacks.

Churches will no longer be able to claim a grant equal to VAT on repairs to organs, pews, bells and clocks as well as professional services. This means that already stretched parishes will need to find thousands of pounds more for vital repairs.

Not only will the St Nicholas fund-raisers lose the grant but they will have to pay the increased 20pc VAT rate.

The St Nicholas’ Church Preservation Trust needs to raise �300,000 to repair the organ, believed to be the second biggest in Norfolk after the instrument in Norwich Cathedral.

It has already raised �65,000 towards the repairs but most of that will now be used to cover the tax bill.

Trust chairman Paul Davies said: “It makes you think – why am I here busting a gut raising money for the organ? The trust doesn’t want to sit around raising money for the government.

“We are going to continue raising money. It has just got to be done. It is the biggest organ outside Norwich Cathedral.”

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John Stephens, St Nicholas director of music, said: “It will affect us quite terribly, I think. Obviously these listed buildings have an awful lot of expensive upkeep but because of the listed status we are forced to upkeep it in a certain way. We have to use special materials.

“They talk about the Big Society and they want to improve things in our society. The Church of England has been the bedrock of society for a long time – and not just in a religious sense.”

The new scheme was announced as part of the spending review in October.

There were fears that the Listed Places of Worship grant scheme would be abolished, but the government stopped short and the grant for repairs to the fabric of a church has been spared the axe.

When the new scheme was announced earlier this year tourism and heritage minister John Penrose said: “Everyone is being asked to make savings so I’m afraid we cannot exclude this scheme, however much I would like to.

“We asked representatives of the major denominations how they would prefer the savings to be made and it was agreed that reducing the scope was the least damaging option for making savings, whilst still allowing for all other sorts of work.”