Government dumps conservatory tax plan

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has scrapped plans to force householders wanting to build extensions to make extra improvements to their property’s energy efficiency.

The Government U-turn on the ‘conservatory tax‘ came after research found as many as four out of 10 home owners would be put off making any home improvements.

In a written statement, Pickles said: “Concerns raised point to the danger that introducing consequential improvements would, in fact, discourage people from undertaking home improvements.

“Having considered all the representations and evidence, including the public reaction, I can inform the House that we will not be going ahead with such regulatory proposals in any way at this point in time.

He added: “There is significant scope to promote take up of the voluntary Green Deal, which allows householders – if they choose – to improve the energy efficiency of their home without any upfront cost.

“We intend to work with the industry and local authorities to help increase awareness of the Green Deal amongst householders.”

Research by The Energy Saving Trust research found that consequential improvements, even with Green Deal finance in place, would deter 38% of households from going ahead with building work on their property that they were otherwise planning.

Other focus group work found installers would be reluctant to accept responsibility for telling home owners of the Government’s consequential improvement requirements.

Pickles said that this duty would potentially present rogue traders with an opportunity either to not inform homeowners of the requirements or to inflate the requirements and ‘rip people off’.

Mike Leonard, CEO of the Modern Masonry Alliance said, “The decision to call time on the prospect of Consequential Improvements is a victory for common sense.

“To impose an additional tax on those who choose to invest their own money to extend and improve their properties would be an act of madness in these difficult times.

“Our SME Builders, brick and block manufacturers and builders merchants depend on this market which is already massively depressed due to the lack of bank lending and falling consumer confidence.

“The MMA has led the fight to stop this progressing and we are delighted that the Government has made the right decision.

“Our economy needs jobs and growth, incentives rather than penalties will make this happen so we hope the Government will take the opportunity to cut VAT to 5% on major home improvements for 12 months and that the banks will make available low interest loans to safe borrowers.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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