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Rescue services and other charities gain in tax changes

RNLI lifeboat at see near Poole, Dorset Image copyright Getty Images

Charity run search and rescue services were among a handful of causes to benefit from tax changes and grants in the Autumn Statement.

Chancellor George Osborne said from April next year search and rescue, and air ambulance charities will be eligible for VAT refunds.

The Association of Air Ambulances estimated 800 more patients could be helped each year as a result.

Mr Osborne also announced that hospice charities would be exempt from VAT.

In addition the government is putting aside an extra £15m next year for church and cathedral repairs.

Emergency response

The chancellor said that fines imposed on the banking sector for manipulating a key lending rate, Libor, would be used to purchase new helicopters for Great Western Air Ambulance, and the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance services.

The Association of Air Ambulances (AAA) welcomed the changes.

"We have worked closely with our members, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Air Ambulances and the RNLI to deliver the result on VAT," said AAA national director Clive Dickin.

"The saving of £10m over the next five years equates to 800 more patients per year being treated, potentially saving lives and improving patient outcomes."

Hospices exempt

Hospices, which care for about 360,000 terminally ill people a year, will also have their VAT refunded from April.

"Our hospice charities also make an enormous contribution to our communities," the chancellor said.

Hospice UK, the umbrella body for about 220 hospices across the UK, said the rebate would be worth an estimated £4m to the sector annually.

David Praill, chief executive of the charity Hospice UK, welcomed the move saying: "The announcement comes as hospices face increased demand for their care, as a result of the increasingly complex needs of Britain's ageing population."

He said they had been calling for this change since 2011.

Church repair

Mr Osborne also announced there would be more money for church renovations.

"We will extend the Cathedral Renovation Fund to cover repairs to our country's churches."

The Autumn Statement document indicated £15m would be set aside for this purpose.

The Budget in March established a £20m fund for cathedrals to "undertake urgent repair work" partly to enhance this year's World War One commemorations.

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