Mike takes Fittleworth Village Hall to the House of Commons

Secretary of Fittleworth Village Hall Mike Elliott, joined representatives of village halls from across the country at a tea party at the House of Commons.

The event was organised by the National Village Halls Forum to highlight to MPs the increasing challenges facing volunteer trustees running these important community buildings.

Four issues were raised by Mike and five other representatives from the Sussex Village Halls Advisory Group, which is part of the charity Action in rural Sussex, AirS.

Lack of capital funding for improvement and rebuilding work is a major problem holding up projects such as the replacement of Funtington Village Hall, the Rawson Institute at Bolney and the second phase of the refurbishment of Loxwood Village Hall.

“Fittleworth has recently completed a small refurbishment project of £35,000 and was very grateful to receive grants of £6,187 from Chichester District Council and £10,000 from Awards For All,” said Mr Elliott.

“But this £10,000 grant is the maximum that can be given by Awards For All and a source of larger grants is very much needed.

“The threat of VAT on alterations to listed village halls, some of which are war memorials or former village schools, as at East Dean, threatens to add to the cost of improvements, as does a rise in VAT on energy efficiency work, such as insulating older halls, undermining efforts to help improve the health and wellbeing of older people.”

Very strong pleas were made for continued funding for advice services provided by charities such as AirS in Sussex, which are under threat from cuts in funding.

Claire Perry, MP, patron of the National Village Halls Forum and MP for Devizes, hosted the event and spoke about the importance of village halls to the Big Society, drawing on her own experience.

The meeting was also joined by Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid Sussex, who spoke in admiration of the work done by volunteers in raising funds, and by Norman Lamb, Minister for Employment in the dept for Business, Innovation and Skills, and other MPs.