THE tourism industry has been rocked by a devastating tax blow – which could cost jobs on the Fylde coast.
While The Gazette has launched a campaign to reduce VAT on tourism, Chancellor George Osborne has announced VAT will be charged on static caravans from October 1 – adding thousands of pounds to the cost of a van.
Susan Kirkham, of the family-run award-winning Eastham Hall Caravan Park in Saltcotes Road, Lytham, said the 20 per cent rise would cost jobs all over the country.
She added: “With the introduction of VAT at 20 per cent this would add approximately £6,000 to the cost virtually overnight.
“HMRC’s impact assessment anticipates a fall in demand of about 30 per cent if the VAT change is passed on.
“We certainly can’t absorb such a large cost. How will customers find an extra £6,000?
“We employ 13 members of staff on the park and have taken on two additional workers in the past couple of years.
“We started those on an apprenticeship scheme run by the local college. This is a luxury we may not be able to afford if we lose sales.”
Every time a new caravan is added to the park, Eastham Hall employs a local haulier, plumber, electrician, decking contractor, valet, and deli to provide a basket of produce.
And the park’s users add to the Fylde coast economy by spending cash locally during their stay.
Susan added: “While I understand these are difficult times and we all have to tighten our belts, this is a huge increase – it’s not like a few pence on a pasty.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies and Fleetwood and Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw took part in a Parliamentary debate on the issue this week.
Mr Menzies said: “Three caravan park owners saw me at my surgery.
“The people staying at their caravans visit Blackpool and the sort of areas struggling and which need support.”
Mr Ollerenshaw said he too would be supporting his constituents in their battle to save their businesses.
Exchequer Secretary David Gauke said following representations, the consultation period on the proposed rate rise would be extended to May 18.
The Gazette’s Slash the VAT campaign is calling on the Government to bring rates on accommodation and attractions in line with European countries where rates are as low as six per cent.