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House of Commons Hansard
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Listed Buildings (Repairs)
12 June 2014
Volume 582

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6. What estimate has been made of the cost of the backlog of repairs to the Church of England’s listed buildings. [904164]

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The Church of England’s 12,500 listed churches have an estimated backlog of repairs of £60 million, and the 42 cathedrals have an estimated backlog of £87 million over the next five years to keep them open and watertight.

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I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that response. I recently visited Lincoln cathedral and met the dean, who told me that that cathedral has a backlog of repairs of £16.5 million. The right hon. Gentleman has done well to get money out of the Treasury, but in fact Lincoln could eat up all that money. What more does he think we could do to ensure that we preserve these vital national assets?

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The hon. Lady is correct: this is quite a challenge, but I think one needs to recognise that several pots of money are available. There is the very welcome £20 million the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently awarded to cathedrals to keep for immediate repairs; the Heritage Lottery Fund has put aside £25 million a year for necessary repairs; the listed places of worship scheme totals £42 million a year; and of course we have to be grateful to the wider public, who raise approximately £115 million each year to spend on repairs to their parish church buildings. The hon. Lady is a Front-Bench spokesperson for her party on culture, media and sport, and I am always willing to discuss with her other ways in which she thinks further funds can be found.

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Thousands of small parish churches are in desperate need of urgent repairs to heating, lighting and electrical systems, as well as roof repairs. How much or what proportion of the amounts that my right hon. Friend just mentioned relate to VAT due on those repairs?

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My hon. Friend may recall that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made very generous provision of, if I recall correctly, £25 million to help to offset VAT costs on church repairs, so there is no reason why churches should be deterred from carrying out repairs and restoration by concerns about VAT bills.