Mountain rescue teams face ever-mounting VAT and duty bills

Mountain rescue teams face ever-mounting VAT and duty bills

A Cumbrian MP is claiming victory in the long-running battle to secure a tax refund for volunteer mountain rescue teams.

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat president and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, said he was ‘over the moon’ at the news.

The 54 volunteer teams, including cave and mine rescue organisations, operating in England and Wales have to pay value added tax on equipment, unlike other emergency services and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. A recent coalition Government rise in VAT added to the estimated £200,000 bill the teams face each year.

The Scottish Government provides a £300,000 grant to the teams operating north of the border, but there is no such help for the English and Welsh teams.

A long campaign has been waged by Mountain Rescue England & Wales, with a three-man finance team repeatedly lobbying the previous Labour Government and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition administration without success.

Last year, grough recorded the machinations of the campaign.

A Labour move to have the VAT rise waived last July also failed.

Successive Treasury ministers said European regulations precluded the refunding of VAT, a claim denied by European Commissioner László Kovács.

A group of fellow Cumbria parliamentarians joined Mr Farron in a pressure group set up to campaign for VAT relief for the rescuers, who also support emergency services during extreme weather and in events such as the 2009 Cumbria floods.

The group is chaired by Rory Stewart, with Mr Farron and John Woodcock vice chairs. MPs John Stevenson and Jamie Reed sit alongside Cumbria peers Lords Dubs, Inglewood, Liddle and Lord Clark of Windermere.

Tim Farron: 'over the moon'

Tim Farron: 'over the moon'

Mr Farron was jubilant at today’s announcement by Chief Secretary Danny Alexander at Treasury questions in the Commons that money had been set aside to support charities such as mountain rescue. Mr Farron’s spokesperson called it a huge win for the MP, mountain rescue and everyone who benefits from their services.

In the Commons, Mr Farron said: “Our mountain rescue teams are staffed by outstanding volunteers doing professional work, but outrageously they have to pay VAT and vehicle excise duty on life-saving equipment. Is it not time that this Government put an end to this and refunded that VAT?

In reply, Mr Alexander said the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP was right to celebrate the work of the teams. “Of course they face additional equipment costs, and that is why we allocated funds in the spending review to help to support mountain rescue teams with those costs. The department concerned, the Department for Transport, will make an announcement on this in due course.”

Mr Farron said: “I am over the moon that Danny has made this announcement and that mountain rescue will finally get the VAT refund that they so thoroughly deserve for providing such an important service.

“This is an issue that I have been campaigning hard on for many months now and it is huge win for the Liberal Democrats in Government and just another example of how we are able to make a genuine positive impact on the lives of people across the country.”

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