With growing opposition to George Osbornes imposition of VAT on church repairs, (petition here), here are some face-saving alternatives for a government climb-down.
1. Church acceptance of the VAT hike, in return for the outlawing of the Victorian Society, and any other heritage society which sees the church building primarily as a period piece museum rather than a house for a living worshipping community.
2. Church backing for the proposal, as long as VAT is also levied on ice cream, frozen peas, and food products that have to be sold below ambient room temperature. After all, most churches are below ambient room temperature as well.
3. Church backing for the proposal, in return for the government assuming full legal liability for any injury or death caused to people by bits falling off church buildings due to a shortfall in the maintenance budget.
4. Keeping zero rated VAT on repairs, but applying VAT instead to uncomfortable pews, copies of the 1928 prayer book, singing of 'Jerusalem' or 'I Vow to Thee My Country', and surplus members of the House of Lords. This will raise the same amount in the short term, as well as providing a financial incentive for the church to clear out a few bits of dead wood. Literally, in some cases.
5. On the 'no taxation without representation' principle, scrap the tax hike but instead introduce an annual levy on the Church of England based on its level of representation in the House of Lords, multiplied by the absenteeism rate of the representatives themselves. Again, this would incentivise change: a current coefficient of 26 x 95 is much less affordable than, say, one of 6x50. Or, mimicing Conservative party practice, the CofE could auction off the 26 places in the Lords at £250k a throw and pay corporation tax on the proceeds.
6. Instead of a VAT increase, levy a 'Tat Tax' on Cathedral merchandise. This will raise much more money, mostly from tourists and foreigners, as well as discouraging Cathedrals from selling large quantities of fudge, teatowels and stick-on stained glass imitation plastic.
7. Only levy the VAT increase on those places of worship which charge for entry.
8. A freeze on any progress in the governments move to replace local council education departments with the CofE (among others) until the increase is reversed.
there, I'm sure most of those make economic sense. By this time tomorrow Vince Cable will be proposing one of them on Newsnight. Watch this space.....