Caravan industry meets with local MP

KEY figures in the local caravan industry have lobbied their MP to reverse the chancellor’s recent budget decision to include VAT on static holiday home sales.

Coastfields Leisure’s director Lloyd Silvester invited 50 of his fellow park owners and tourism figures to discuss the tax hike with MP for Boston and Skegness Mark Simmonds on Thursday. Fearing that the VAT inclusion will hinder investment, affect jobs and damage the entire coastal economy when it takes effect in October, the local caravan industry is keen to pressure the government into delaying or reconsidering George Osborne’s budget announcement.

Mr Silvester said: “My concern is that this huge and aggressive tax hike, inflicted with such short notice will have a dramatic affect on the coastal economy.

“The coast is quite a deprived area as it is and much of the economy is reliant on the caravan industry, so if we want to attract tourists to the coast the last thing we need at the moment is a blow which will prevent park owners from investing in their businesses.

“Since the recession, it has already been hard to sell new caravans and top end caravans are selling particularly poorly, a huge tax increase like this is the last thing we need.”

During the meeting concerned businessmen explained to Mr Simmonds numerous fears they envisage will be inflicted by the tax hike, to their own businesses and the wider economy.

With sales likely to suffer, many felt that caravan parks would deteriorate into unsightly dilapidated collections of old, run-down caravans, which the owners would be unable to replace.

Jonathan Moses of the Blue Anchor Group also felt that jobs within the industry could suffer, including apprenticeships - schemes which the government has previously championed as a solution to youth unemployment, but has now been accused of hindering.

Mr Simmonds explained that a consultation on the proposals was ongoing until May 4 and said he would discuss the situation with his fellow MPs and the treasury. Speaking after the meeting he said: “I have expressed my concern about the impact these changes will have on businesses in Skegness.

“A large amount of our local economy relies on the success of local caravan parks. We must be careful that this success is not in any way damaged and potential growth is not hindered.

“I am keen to engage with local businesses about this issue and would encourage any interested parties in my constituency.”

Mr Silvester said that he and his colleagues will be writing to Mr Simmonds but feared his ‘hands were tied’ when it came to any change in the decisions.