May 5 2010
The team has always enjoyed excellent cross party support from all our local politicians, who have raised the good name of the team in Westminster many times, and have raised many issues concerning mountain rescue in the local and national press.
So with tomorrows election nearly upon us what do we want.
Well our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE has his personal mountain rescue wish list, so over to whichever party gets elected tomorrow;
“Could you please support the current campaign and remove the VAT element off all purchases made by UK Mountain and Cave Rescue Teams. It’s ridiculous that out of every £1.00 donated to MRTs by the public and benefactors, etc, whenever we then spend such the Government takes 17.5p in the £ off us straight away, yet our service is essential to the successful conclusion of all the incidents we get involved in.”
“Could you please support the current campaign and remove fuel excise duty on all our fuel costs. this would be a simple matter to do and it would acknowledge the vital service we all provide.”
“The Scottish Office currently kindly directly assists each Scottish Mountain Rescue Team with a substantial grant every year, (and has done so for many years now) which goes a considerable way to meeting their overall annual running costs. This is a ’no strings attached’ grant. It’s now time for our Parliament and our Politicians to action our constant plea to match the ’Scottish arrangement’ and directly support the English and Welsh teams.”
So from our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE to whoever gets elected tomorrow, please do something positive about supporting Mountain Rescue, it’s not too much to ask from a completely voluntary, self funded, excellent national organisation.
Please note this article represents the personal viewpoint of our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE
Webmaster comment. Just for info the following information re the political parties is taken from www.sarworld.org
A Conservative Party Treasury Spokesperson asked about VAT exemption for SAR teams repeated several times that the Conservatives “do not intend to make any changes to the current VAT schedule.” This was her answer even when pushed on the charitable and indeed emergency service related nature of such teams.
The spokesperson for the Labour Party promised to get back to me with a response, but did not do so before publication. However, since the House of Commons Transport Committee’s report on Search and Rescue in 2005, the Government has often repeated the line it cannot change the law on VAT exemption and “that a funding scheme for charities based on irrecoverable VAT is [not] a practical or affordable way of targeting the Government support available for charities.”
A Treasury Spokesman was quoted on Grough in February 2010, “Government recognises and values the commitment and essential work that organisations such as mountain rescue charities provide,” said the spokesperson. “There is no further scope for relief through the VAT system. However Government does provide support to these charities, who can benefit from purchasing zero-rated specialist equipment and VAT free medicine and medical equipment.”
The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson had rather more to say on the issue, clearly stating that it is a manifesto commitment of theirs to refund VAT to Mountain Rescue Teams.
Here is their full statement;
Liberal Democrats will refund any VAT paid by the mountain and cave rescue services to put them on the same footing as all the other emergency services. This is an explicit manifesto commitment on page 83.
Mountain rescue teams play a vital role in saving life, limb and property. Staffed entirely by volunteers, they provide a free emergency service 24 hours a day all year round. Mountain Rescue is paid for by voluntary donations, their equipment. Their colleagues from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, with whom they operated shoulder to shoulder during the recent floods, are exempt from the tax.
All English teams are registered charities and rely entirely on donations from the public for their income. This works reasonably well in areas of high tourist traffic but not as well in areas where the need for a mountain rescue team is not as obvious.
Mountain Rescue teams’ remits have spread in the past couple of decades to include assis;ting the police in searches for vulnerable missing persons (elderly confused, children missing from home, self harmers etc), searching for evidence after a crime, rescues on inland water, flood rescue, and assisting the ambulance service where access to a patient is difficult. This increase in remit has put ever greater strains on donations.
Unlike the statutory emergency services, mountain and cave rescue teams have to provide all equipment from charitable donations. Many teams do not have the finances to provide personal equipment so each volunteer has to finance their own equipment, unlike their seafaring colleagues in the RNLI who are supplied with personal and life saving equipment from their national headquarters and who are exempt from VAT.
56 teams in England and Wales paid £75,000 in VAT for goods and items but this figure could be in excess of £200,000.
The UK has the only mountain rescue service in Europe that is not statutory and is the only one that does not charge for its services, which means that there is scope for the Government to make exemptions on VAT similar to other areas already granted VAT exemption in member states.
UK Independence Party
A Party Spokesperson when asked on UKIP’s policy on this said the Party “don’t have a policy on mountain rescuers.”
British National Party (BNP)
The BNP were asked their policy on this but did not reply before publication.
A Green Party Spokesperson said that they had “no specific policy” on this but promised to look into it for us.
The initial reaction of a Plaid Cymru Spokesperson was “I can only ever imagine we would be very supportive of this policy” and went on to comment about the immense contribution the Mountain Rescue Teams in Wales make (but with a surname like Bradley she was only ever going to be pro-SAR teams!)
A fuller history of Plaid Cymru’s support of Mountain Rescue was also forward to SARworld;
Plaid Cymru recognises the importance of supplying our mountain rescue teams with the right equipment and more resources to carry out their vital work.
In November 2008, Plaid Cymru called on Ofcom to rethink their plans to charge some rescue services, such as the RNLI and Mountain Rescue teams, to use essential radio communications systems – this plan would have put a huge financial strain on the charities that help save many lives every year, including mountain rescue teams which rely on maritime systems for their radio communications.
In January 2009, Hywel Williams, Plaid Cymru’s Caernarfon MP, has said: “Snowdonia is deceptive. There is not a huge amount of snow and ice but conditions are as difficult as it can get, with ice chill winds. It is no coincidence that the 1953 Everest expedition trained in Snowdonia. Public education should be improved to alert people to the dangers. Often, people travel a long distance to walk Snowdon so feel they have to go up once they have arrived. But I’m very much in favour of promoting hill walking, it is extremely economically important to North Wales. My main concern is the amount of support available to mountain rescue teams.”
Mr Williams also for a raft of measures to help boost the coffers of mountain rescue teams to be considered. They include a concession on duty for the fuel the teams use when carrying out a rescue and cutting the VAT to just 5% on all equipment – the lowest it can be reduced to under European laws. He added: “I’m not calling for a substantial amount of state funding for mountain rescue teams but there are other ways to help. Cutting VAT could mean a substantial reduction in costs for teams.”
Hywel raised his concerns in a debate on mountain rescue services in the Commons on January 21 2009. For the full text of Hywel Williams MP’s contribution to the Mountain Rescue debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090121/halltext/90121h0001.htm
In December 2009, Alun Ffred Jones, Heritage Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government, said: “We are blessed in Wales with areas of outstanding natural beauty and using our natural outdoors as a green gym is a really good way of keeping fit, but I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to be fully prepared for all weather conditions in the mountains, especially during the winter. Weather conditions can change from hour to hour and can make a day out enjoyable and memorable or potentially dangerous … That is why the Welsh Assembly Government, working in partnership with the Met Office, supports the Mountain Weather Wales service, which provides daily forecasts of the weather conditions in both Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.”
So now you know the different parties’ policies, don’t forget to quiz those candidates when they knock on your door…
Our thanks to SARworld for allowing us to publish this.