Diary: More VAT, vicar? Is this really what the Chancellor intended?

 

Ministers are using some interesting arguments to defend George Osborne's decision to slap VAT on alterations to listed buildings.

On Wednesday, David Cameron said the measure was aimed at people who have large swimming pools constructed inside their listed Tudor homes. The Culture Minister, John Penrose, has added in people who put loft extensions or conservatories to listed buildings. None should be allowed to escape VAT, they argue.

But more than 12,000 of the country's buildings are churches. Believe it or not, very few vicars have swimming pools, loft extensions or conservatories installed in places of worship, but an increasing number are having to find money for new roofs because the old ones have been raided by metal thieves.

Metal thefts from church roofs cost the insurance companies £173,000 in 2009, £2.2m in 2010, and £4.4m in 2011 – but that is less than half the story, because the bulk of the loss is absorbed by the Church of England. Amid this epidemic of theft, George Osborne had whacked up the cost of replacing a church roof by 20 per cent.

In a less secular age, he would have been excommunicated.

Don't strip for promotion, Eric

While the Home Secretary, Theresa May, dominates the news, a friendly word to the sub-editors on the Brentwood Gazette. That fine newspaper recently carried an interview with Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, in which it was said – and I quote – "Mr Pickles quashed rumours he has his eye on Teresa May's Home Secretary job." Teresa May is not the Home Secretary. She is a porn star, who strips to her underwear and beyond for the benefit of men who seek gratification from the internet. Eric Pickles doing her job would not be a pretty sight.

Cameron cools on PMQ appearances

David Cameron does not seem to be enjoying Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons. The evidence is not just how uncomfortable and edgy he was on Wednesday, but the speculation that the Commons is about to have yet another mini recess in the first week of May, set off yesterday when the leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, announced a parliamentary timetable that mysteriously ended on 30 April. There are nine Wednesdays between 14 March and the Queen's Speech on 9 May – nine occasions, in other words, when Mr Cameron might have been at the Despatch Box for his weekly joust with Ed Miliband. He has been at only two so far, and even if he turns up again next Wednesday, that will be just three out of nine.

Where Sugar leads, Portillo follows

Hot on the heels of Alan Sugar, a Labour peer, urging people not to vote for Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral election, the former Conservative minister, Michael Portillo, has announced that he is not voting for Boris Johnson. He is, by implication, backing the Independent Siobhan Benita as the only candidate in favour of a third runway at Heathrow. Though Portillo is nowhere near as well known as Lord Sugar, he was once a much more important figure in the Conservative Party than Sugar has ever been in the Labour Party.

Tell us what you really think, Anita

Respect to Anita Romer, a Liberal Democrat member of Northumberland County Council: she opened her big mouth, and spoke the truth. There was outrage in Seaton Delaval after the councillor said the town did not need a new takeaway, because it has 15 already, and its residents are getting too fat. The Newcastle Chronicle has checked, and it is true: more than 30 per cent of Seaton Delaval's reception-age children and 40 per cent of those in year six are classed as overweight or very overweight. Hang on in there, councillor.

Tate accused on Hirst funding

Sir Nicholas Serota, director of The Tate, has received a furious letter accusing him of misusing public funds by exhibiting works by Damien Hirst which "aren't art". People who think that about Hirst are many.

But this letter is signed by Julian Spalding, the former museum curator, whose earlier blast against Hirst's "subprime art" featured in this paper last March. He is demanding to know why the Tate allows "a phoney avant-garde to become the establishment".

The Tate declined to comment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before