Big bills expected for Trunch church organ repairs

A North Norfolk church faces a hefty increase to the bill to repair the church organ as the government scaled back a grant scheme this week.

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 – meaning already stretched parishes will need to find thousands of pounds more for vital repairs.

St Botolph's Church in Trunch will need to find an extra �2,400 for the repair of its organ.

It will cost �12,000 to repair the organ which has not been restored since 1957. But the church will continue to raise funds even though work is set to start to help pay for the sudden �2,400 VAT bill.

The St Botolph's PCC treasurer Ernie Garland said: 'It is unfair in the fact that the organ is an integral part of the church. I know we've all got to tighten our belts and make sacrifices, but it does seem a bit unfair to make cuts like that.

'This is a bit awkward for us because there was no real prior warning about it.'

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

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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.'

Archdeacon of Norwich, the Ven Jan McFarlane, said: 'In October the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme, which had been under threat, would continue. This was widely welcomed – especially in this diocese where we have the greatest concentration of mediaeval church buildings in the world.

'Had the scheme been scrapped, we simply wouldn't have been able to keep up the huge amount of work which goes into these buildings to make them fit for purpose for today and preserved in all their glory for future generations.

'The concession on bells and organs has been lost and we regret this – as it will have a significant impact on those who work tirelessly to raise the funds to restore them.

'But we're grateful for the government's recognition of the large contribution churches make to the community as a whole – especially in rural areas where they are often the only community building.'