Policy Round-up: August 2018
As recess comes to an end and we look towards the start of a new Parliamentary season, the big news this month is that our new research into the tax treatment of Heritage Maintenance Funds is now complete; this project has been many months in the making, and we’re looking forward to sharing our new evidence base with politicians and sector colleagues over the coming season.
So what’s the story of Heritage Maintenance Funds, and why do they need reforming? Well, despite the huge popularity and contribution of the 1,650 independently owned historic houses we represent (between them they welcome over 26 million visits every year, generate £1 billion for the economy and engage hundreds of thousands of annual education visitors) they face a growing threat in the form of a backlog of outstanding repairs estimated at an eye-watering £1.38 billion. A practical solution to this growing conservation challenge is needed to enable these special places to be fit for the future, and our research indicates that reforming Heritage Maintenance Funds would be the most cost-effective option.
Heritage Maintenance Funds are a means by which nationally important historic houses that are open to the public can ringfence funds (from their own resources) for maintenance. Our research shows that a reduction in the income tax levied on these funds would be a cost-effective means of generating more funding for conservation, while guaranteeing public access, generating economic growth and supporting health and wellbeing. In early 2018 we commissioned an independent economic analysis to model the costs and benefits of reducing the income tax charged on HMFs to 20% or 0%; this independent report concluded that in both cases the benefits would outweigh the costs, but the 20% scenario delivered the most benefits for all stakeholders. Our research concluded that reducing the income tax rate to 20% would result in a net economic benefit of £85.5 million by 2023 – comprising additional expenditure on maintenance, increased tourism revenues, and increased health and wellbeing benefits. Find out more about this new research and our Heritage Maintenance Funds campaign here.
We’ll be spending the autumn/winter engaging politicians and sector partners with this new evidence base, calling on the government to reduce income tax on Heritage Maintenance Funds to 20%. This practical, cost-effective improvement to the tax framework for heritage is essential to help tackle the huge backlog of repairs these special places require.
Alongside our work on Heritage Maintenance Funds, we’ve been beavering away responding to various consultations over the summer – on planning, the environment, the UK government’s soft power strategy and Heritage Lottery funding. You can read our latest consultation submissions here.
Last but definitely not least, we would highly recommend a read of our Historic Houses Attingham Scholar’s reflections on her experience at ‘country house summer school’. Harriet Wheelock, a Next Generation Member at Treowen and Keeper of Collections at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland was the first recipient of the Historic Houses Attingham Scholarship this summer, and has written a lively blog post for us about her time at the famous Attingham Summer School. Applications for the 2019 Historic Houses Attingham Scholarship will open in the autumn. If you’re living or working at a Historic Houses place, have a grounding in some aspect of country house scholarship and are interested in applying for the 2019 scholarship, please email Emma.
Emma and Polly, the policy team