Breakfast roundtable at the House of Commons
Earlier this week the Historic Houses policy team was delighted to welcome a group of cross-party MPs and peers to a breakfast roundtable meeting in the House of Commons.
Our roundtable was sponsored by the former Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch MP, and MPs from the Conservative party, the Labour party and the Scottish National Party took part in the discussion. Two of our house members from Muncaster Castle and Pitchford Hall were the stars of the show, engaging MPs in conversation about what it’s like to live in and look after a historic house that’s open to the public.
We were particularly pleased that Michael Ellis MP, Heritage Minister (at the time of our roundtable; Michael Ellis was reshuffled a few days later to the Department of Transport) gave the keynote speech, and that the shadow Heritage Minister, Kevin Brennan MP, contributed to the roundtable. All agreed on the significant economic, social and other public benefits of independently owned historic houses, and supported the development of our Heritage Maintenance Funds campaign.
Our parliamentary roundtable was part of our campaign calling on Government to reduce the income tax burden on Heritage Maintenance Funds (HMFs) from 45% to the basic rate of 20%. HMFs are designed to enable nationally important historic houses that are open to the public to ring-fence funds (from their own resources) for maintenance. HMFs are exempt from inheritance tax to enable more of the funds in them to be devoted to the conservation of nationally important, publicly accessible heritage. In their current form, however, with income tax levied at 45% (the highest rate), HMFs are not being used to their full potential – just 8% of Historic Houses members have one in place.
An independent cost/benefit analysis we commissioned last year concluded that a reduction in the income tax levied on HMFs to 20% would generate a net economic benefit for the UK of £85.5 million by 2023 – comprising additional tourism visits, the additional maintenance and repair work that would be carried out, and the general enhancement to health and wellbeing that arises from greater public access to well looked-after heritage assets.