AN MP has revealed he played a key part in a U-turn by a village church over imposing an ancient tax on three parishioners.
Peter Luff, MP for Mid Worcestershire, took up the case of Judith Holden of Old Turnpike Road, and brothers Charles and Brian Boden, of the Commandery Farm, Lower Crowle, after Crowle with Bredicot parochial church council had looked set to register the ancient liability against their land.
As we previously reported, the councillors later chose not to register the tax, called chancel repair liability, which would have made the parishioners responsible for paying for repairs to the chancel, or altar end, of the church. Although the tax had been largely ignored for centuries, under the Land Registration Act 2002, all parochial church councils had until last month to identify affected land and register their interest or lose it for good when the property was next sold.
However, Mr Luff said he had spoken at length to churchwardens at Crowle to help find a solution.
He said: “The Church of England originally gave very poor advice.
“Parishes thought they had to do it or parochial church councillors could face personal liability themselves [for not protecting the church’s assets].
“This was not true and was never true.
“I got a clear statement from the charity commission which it published on its website.”
Mr Luff said the fresh guidance showed that while parochial church councils should register the liability where organisations or institutions owned affected land, they could choose not to with individual homeowners if they believed it would cause upset and be contrary to the church’s mission.
Mr Luff originally began campaigning against chancel repair liability after homeowners in Broadway were hit with a similar tax threat in July 2012.
There, he was successful at reversing the decision to register the tax against their homes and helped villagers to secure agreements with the parochial church council that the liability would not later be taken up.
He also got assurances from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which recently took over responsibility for funding repairs to listed places of worship, that it would not withhold funding from parochial church councils who choose not to register the tax against its parishioners.