The Spring Budget should help grow heritage and tourism
Spring Budget should help grow heritage and tourism in all corners of the UK, says Historic Houses
Earlier today (6 February) Historic Houses submitted its formal Budget Representation to HM Treasury, calling on the government to use the opportunity of the Budget on 11 March to stimulate the full economic and social potential of heritage and tourism across the UK.
Historic Houses is the cooperative association for independently owned historic houses and gardens across the UK. We represent over 1,500 unique historic places, including world-famous country houses alongside local landmarks. Together, the places we represent welcome over 26 million visits each year, generate a whopping £1 billion in visitor spend – most of which is spent off site supporting local towns and villages - and support over 33,000 full time equivalent jobs in local communities. These places are the bedrock of tourism, the UK’s fifth biggest industry, and have significant growth potential given the right fiscal conditions.
Our member houses are spread throughout every corner of the country, and are eager to support the government’s ambitions to level up growth in all regions of the UK; however, their ability to do more is hampered by an eye-watering backlog of repairs and maintenance totalling £1.38 billion. Practical, cost-effective support from government through the tax framework is essential to enable these historic places to tackle the daunting conservation backlog they face using their own resources. Unsupportive fiscal conditions for heritage can have a devastating impact on owners’ abilities to fund the conservation of the historic houses and gardens people love to visit.
The Budget on 11 March represents a key opportunity for change; a chance for the government to express its wholehearted support for the future of heritage and tourism in the UK by delivering a modest, targeted and reforming change to the fiscal framework to support those who are looking after historic places. Reforming Heritage Maintenance Funds (HMFs) – which have existed on the statute book since the 1970s – by reducing the income tax levied on them from 45 per cent to the basic rate of 20 per cent would unleash the untapped growth potential of our heritage for the benefit of communities across the UK – releasing more funding for conservation while guaranteeing public access, generating economic growth in regional economies and supporting health and wellbeing. Independent economic analysis commissioned by Historic Houses shows that reducing the income tax charged on HMFs to 20 per cent would result in a net economic benefit of £85.5 million by 2023.
This small change to existing legislation is affordable, targeted and not open to abuse, since the income from HMFs can only be spent on the maintenance of nationally important heritage buildings that are open to the public. Incentivising the repair and maintenance of historic buildings through this modest policy change would also be an important step forward in promoting the carbon-friendly re-use of existing buildings.
Our country’s world-leading heritage buildings have a key role to play in delivering the government’s ambitions to usher in a decade of renewal in both rural and urban areas. We call on government to give historic houses the tools they need to play their part for people, places and prosperity.
Budget Representation from Historic Houses 06.02.20.pdf