South Lakes MP Tim Farron is stepping up his fight for VAT and VED exemptions for Mountain Rescue. Mr Farron met members of the national funding committee of Mountain Rescue (England & Wales) yesterday (Thursday) to discuss the latest developments in the campaign.
Despite providing a service which is estimated to save the taxpayer £5million a year, Mountain Rescue teams still have to pay VAT and vehicle excise duty (VED) on much of their equipment and vehicles. At a time when donations to Mountain Rescue are falling, down by as much as 60% this year alone due to the credit crunch, some teams are finding it almost impossible to kit their members.
Speaking after yesterday's meeting, Mr Farron said: "Each mountain Rescue team is, in effect, being forced to give the exchequer £2,500 of the money they have raised from voluntary sources each year in tax payments. Whatever excuses the government use, that is just criminal."
Unlike Mountain Rescue teams in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, teams in England receive not one penny from government. In comparison, the Scottish Parliament donates £400,000 to their rescue teams.
Mr Farron continued: "It's not as if Mountain Rescue are asking for handouts - they're not even asking for the support that teams in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get. They simply want to stop having to handover voluntary donations to the exchequer."
Mr Farron has again written to treasury minister Angela Eagle MP, and plans to meet her in the New Year to press Mountain Rescue's case. Additionally, as the government repeatedly claim that EU VAT rules tie their hands, Mr Farron is also working with North West MEP Chris Davies to impress upon the European Commission the difficulties that EU VAT rules are causing to the rescue services in the UK - the Commission are shortly to start a review of the EU VAT rules.
Mr Farron concluded: "The government constantly say that they appreciate the work carried out by Mountain Rescue. It is time that they stopped playing lip service, and started taking action before it's too late."
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