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Cowboys Cheer Chancellor

COWBOY builders were quietly smiling over their pints while giving a grateful thumbs up to the Chancellor, George Osborne, after his Budget in March. Clearly mindful of the general election in May 2015, Mr Osborne announced deliberately targeted giveaways, notably for the Conservatives’ core supporters, pensioners. Rogue traders also had a lot to cheer about.
Before the Budget the Chancellor was approached by a number of prominent people from all sides of the political spectrum on behalf of the Cut the VAT Campaign. They presented him with a soundly reasoned case in favour of reducing VAT on domestic refurbishment and repair.
Cut the VAT Campaign Coalition is a strongly based alliance of more than 60 charities, trade associations, business groups, the construction industry and financial institutions, with support from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
Among its arguments is that cutting VAT on home repairs from 20% to 5% will help the fight against cowboy builders. Lowering VAT would enable legitimate builders to compete more effectively with rogue traders on price, as cowboys often do not charge VAT.
But their case doesn’t end there. According to recent independent research by Experian, a VAT reduction on housing renovation and repair could boost the UK economy by more than £15bn from 2015 to 2020.
Furthermore, this cut in VAT could also create over 95,000 jobs and save 240,000 tonnes of CO2 from thousands of homes.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: ‘There is no other proposal that will help the UK to achieve so many of its economic, environmental and social aims with so little cost to the public purse. The research shows that the gains would completely overshadow any direct losses to Treasury coffers due to a drop in VAT.’
Mike Brown, chair of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, said: ‘The care and maintenance of our heritage buildings is often crafts-based and, as such, labour intensive, so a reduction in VAT will help support those skills and thousands of jobs across the sector. The case for the reduction in VAT is particularly important in making the difference between an historic building being saved or being unviable.
‘On top of that, more affordable day to day care and maintenance would help save countless older buildings from the destructive and costly cycle of decay and restoration, allowing diminishing resource to be directed towards delivering better informed energy conservation measures, compatible with the fabric of the building.’
However, thinking ahead only 12 months, Mr Osborne dismissed these arguments. Instead, he cut tax on Bingo and reduced the price of beer. Is this really the action of a responsible Chancellor?

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at