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March 2, 2022 9:09 AM

Tim with Gill HaighTim Farron MP and Cumbria Tourism have joined forces against the proposed rise in VAT. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, lowered the rate to 12.5% to combat the effects of the pandemic but plans to return the rate to 20% in early April. Cumbria Tourism have discovered in a recent survey of their circa 2500 member businesses that the proposed VAT rise was the fourth biggest concern for members.

As the tourism and hospitality industries are one of the biggest employers within Cumbria the proposed rise is of particular concern following the COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of the rising costs of living. In 2020 overseas residents flying to the UK fell by 96% and overall, the pandemic is estimated to have cost the UK tourism industry £2 Billion.

Tim Farron and Cumbria Tourism are calling on the Chancellor to not go ahead with the planned rise in VAT.

Tim has said, "The tourism and hospitality industries are fundamental to Cumbrian life. The pandemic has been devastating on these industries and whilst the lowered VAT rate has helped boost the economy a little it is nowhere near recovered enough for the rates to return to 20%.

"We also need to keep people in employment and these local businesses will not be able to do that if they have to keep raising prices to keep up with VAT and other rising costs of living. Keeping VAT low is fundamental to keeping our local high streets thriving."

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, has added, "The impact of COVID-19 had a catastrophic impact for the county's tourism industry in 2020, wiping £2billion off the value of our visitor economy. Whilst Government support has been hugely welcomed, significant challenges remain - not least around recruitment, which is now potentially holding back future growth. Combined with rising costs and supply issues, many tourism and hospitality businesses continue to struggle and we continue to urge Government to extend the discounted VAT rate.

"At the same time, there is also huge opportunity. Looking ahead, there is the chance to capitalise on the new 'staycation' experience, convert the 'new' visitors we have attracted over the past 18 months into repeat custom and increase short breaks out of season.

"Now is the time to seize the moment, invest and really take tourism seriously as an economic driver for the UK and extending the discounted VAT rate would be one way the Government can help make that happen."