After years of campaigning with Ministers and the Treasury, Robin has welcomed a victory for common sense and good news for the spectacular public library in Worcester as the Government has agreed to refund VAT paid on the building.
The refund is worth over one and a half million pounds to the University of Worcester and comes after a long running dispute over whether VAT should have been payable. Although the University is the main beneficiary as it paid the VAT bills in the first place the real winner will be the shared services approach they have taken, working with Worcestershire Count and Worcester City Council to share library facilities and make more available to the public in Worcester for free. This decision paves the way for other such shared facilities in other cities and for more places to follow Worcester’s example.
Robin first took this matter up immediately after the opening of the Hive by Her Majesty the Queen and he has raised it with successive Ministers including those for Universities, for Culture Media & Sport for Communities and Local Government and at the Treasury. Robin also recently brought the Education Secretary to the Hive to see the fantastic facilities it offers to local schools and teachers. He pointed out that the building should have been treated like a public building all along and therefore VAT should not have had to be paid on its construction costs. However the rules around the treatment of shared services are complex and for a long period it looked as if the University would have to bear the cost of VAT in order to make the project work, something it paid out of its own reserves.
The decision that has now been made mean that the University will be left financially stronger and more secure but more importantly it sets a precedent that collaboration between universities and councils should be more attractive. The Hive was ground-breaking in the way that it combined a University and a public library and it is still unique in the UK. Robin hopes that the VAT decision will mean that more councils and universities can follow the example set by Worcester.
The University of Worcester still pays VAT on its other projects and it has paid hundreds of thousands on the Arena, another building whose benefits are shared between the University and the City, but Robin has welcomed the example that this decision sets for the provision of share libraries.
Commenting Robin said:
“I am delighted to see this decision. Common sense has prevailed and the case that I and the University of Worcester have been making over a number of years has been accepted. The Hive is one of the finest public Libraries not just in the country but in Europe. It provides fantastic facilities to the people of Worcester freely and it combines the benefit of a top of the range University Library with those of a public facility. Given the huge benefit to the public it was always questionable whether VAT should have been payable on its construction costs but my main concern was that making it so would discourage other people from taking this approach. We have shown in Worcester what a fantastic success sharing services in this way can be and now others can follow our example with confidence. This is a victory for Worcester, a win for libraries in general, a boost for our University and a major victory for the practice of saving money and delivering world class facilities through sharing.”
Notes to editors:
For the release from the University of Worcester see:
For Robin’s previous commentary on the Hive Library and visits to it with Ministers see:
In 2013 Robin invited David Willets then Minister for Universities to visit and afterwards asked a Parliamentary question about the example set by the Hive and the Minister replied saying that other places should learn from Worcester’s example: