TOWN leaders say a new tax on listed buildings will make it harder to bring empty properties back into use.
Plans to charge 20 per cent VAT on work carried out on listed buildings was announced by the Government in last month’s budget.
Hartlepool has over two hundred listed buildings, several of which are currently empty.
They range from churches and houses to phone boxes.
VAT relief on changes to listed buildings will end from October after MPs failed to overturn the proposal in a vote in Parliament.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who voted against the move, says the decision will make it harder to bring the town’s old buildings back into use and could hit churches’ limited finances.
But Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said it will not distract the council from tackling the issue of empty buildings.
Mr Wright said: “If you think about some of the churches we have got, we have one of the best churches anywhere in the North-East in St Hilda’s.
“When repairs are done to those buildings they will be charged full VAT now.
“It will make it more difficult and more expensive to bring these listed buildings back into use and into the fabric of the town.”
Among the listed buildings in Hartlepool that have fallen into disrepair include the Grade Two listed former Odeon cinema in Raby Road.
Hartlepool Borough Council is working with the owners to see some action on the building.
Mayor Drummond added: “It will certainly make life more difficult for what we are trying to do about bringing empty buildings back into use.
“We have had a number of successes over recent years in bringing some important buildings, particularly listed buildings back into use like the former Co-op in Park Road.
“A lot of these buildings make excellent venues for certain types of business.
“But this won’t prevent us going down the same track we are going down which is enforcement and compulsory purchase.”
A bid to prevent VAT being imposed was defeated by 293 votes to 258 in the House of Commons.