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New Poster Girl for Wakefield Cathedral Restoration

Have you, like me, been meaning to get around to signing the petition on the imposition of VAT on building work on listed buildings, particularly churches?

In the 2012 budget, the Chancellor proposed removing the zero rating of VAT on alterations to listed buildings. This will add up to 20% extra cost on every listed building that wants to upgrade, and so will threaten the future of our nation’s heritage.

For Wakefield Cathedral at an early stage of work in a restoration project of national significance, it is a disaster. It imposes a cost we cannot meet and work will have to end.

This is a small-minded change from a Big Society Government and must be stopped. Please join us to help preserve our heritage and sign this petition now.

Wait no longer – you would have to have a heart of stone to resist Wakefield Cathedral’s secret weapon in this campaign – and you don’t have hearts of stone, do you?  Although admittedly not the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Pamela Greener, wife of the Dean of Wakefield, has the advantage (a) of being real flesh and blood and (b) an unstoppable force in full attack on the usually immoveable object of Her Majesty’s Treasury. On this occasion, my money is on the unstoppable force.

She has combined with two other, probably equally formidable, women to form ‘Greener Gals’:

Working with your church
GREENER GALS are helping to raise funds for the development project at Wakefield Cathedral. One way we are doing this is by putting on concerts in churches around the diocese. We ask you to provide a venue and an audience – and perhaps puddings for the interval or wine and cheese. We print posters, tickets, and programmes, and come and perform (bringing with us all the necessary keyboards, amplification, etc.)
And we agree in advance how we are going to split the takings. It’s worked well as a formula so far – it’s a really good way for parishes to support the Cathedral and raise funds for their own good causes. And people have a great evening out. If this idea might work in your church, please get in touch.

PAMELA GREENER was born and brought up in Cornwall, and started playing the piano by ear at the age of two. She read music at Oxford, where she had a brief encounter with the organ, winning a bet by playing Widor’s Toccata. A career in accountancy and tax followed, but she has always loved playing the flute and piano, and writing light music. She is delighted to have teamed up with Carole and Sue to form GREENER GALS.

At a GREENER GALS concert, there will always be a piano solo of some kind, and some of Pamela’s own compositions and songs. Recent favourites include her take on the present political situation (The Ballad of the British Bulldog) and the more intimate song written for her husband on Valentine’s Day (Wind in the Pillows).

You have to feel sorry for George Osborne – he doesn’t stand a chance!

Save our heritage: say no to VAT on work on listed buildings


As the lady says, she doesn’t give up easily. Here is a second part to this ditty, uploaded on 24 April:

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I have never met, not had any contact with, Pamela Greener. The Church of England tweeted in a very understated way this afternoon:

CofE YouTube song calls on Government to bring back #zero rate introduction of VAT on alterations to listed buildings 

Intrigued by the Church of England promoting a ‘YouTube song’ I followed the link, and was enchanted by what I found. I hope you will be too.


12 comments on this post:

Susan S. Hedges said...

I would love to sign the petition, but I doubt that they would find a Yank’s signature valid. Good luck with this.

Lay Anglicana said...

I do hope she gets somewhere with it – what a gal! We may produce some strange archbishops, but some of the women around the Church of England priesthood are real show-stoppers!

04 April 2012 17:21
04 April 2012 17:16
Susan S. Hedges said...

Love the song, BTW.

Lay Anglicana said...

Me too!

04 April 2012 17:22
04 April 2012 17:17
Philip said...

A very good song, and possibly a good cause, but aren’t we beginning to confuse ‘A Church’ and ‘THE Church’ here ??

‘A Church’ is just a building. ‘The Church’ is a group of people. ‘The Church may need a building, but they ONLY need a ‘building’.

They DO NOT ‘need’ a ‘heritage’ building or a ‘listed’ building and I’m afraid I don’t really see it as the job of ‘The Church’ to take over responsibility for preserving the heritage of the nation.

That is the job of the National Trust. Of course, many with the ‘C of E’ see it as being their job to perform a similar role to the National Trust, viz. preserve middle-class English life, and have cafes to provide sticky buns and afternoon tea.

The lady singing talks about the ‘Big Society’, but if this includes creches and youth groups and drop-in centres for the ‘wellderley’ – this can be achieved, and maybe would benefit from, being run in funky modern buildings which are warm and cosy.

I think a bit of a re-appraisal of what the Church is for is required. They may need to invest in the internet, and leave preserving the stained glass to the heritage bods in the Government.

Lay Anglicana said...

Welcome to Lay Anglicana, Philip, and thank-you for commenting.

I think when you say ‘the Church does not need a heritage/listed building’ you feel that this is self-evident. I wonder whether you have long experience of worshipping in modern concrete blocks and speak from that basis, or whether on the contrary you are perhaps a long-suffering churchwarden charged with maintaining a 12th century parish church as my husband was?

From my own point of view – a lifetime of being forced to worship in modern buildings interspersed with welcome periods in ‘heritage buildings’- I would strongly argue that the Church gains enormously from being able to offer worship in churches where people have worshipped for hundreds of years. I understand you disagree with this point of view, but you may like to see my earlier post at

When you talk about ‘the job of the National Trust’, you will appreciate that this is a charity and I don’t think it has ever regarded church buildings as within its scope (unless they are private chapels which form part of an estate).

I don’t think they are trying to preserve Wakefield Cathedral because it is a listed building; I think they are trying to preserve it because it has been a place of worship for the people of Wakefield for hundreds of years and its form continues to suit its function, though it may need a bit of propping up in places!

Of course, there is a general debate in the Church about whether we would choose, if we were starting again from scratch, to offer services in large stone buildings, some more than a thousand years old. Some people would, some people wouldn’t, but I wonder whether the beauty of the buildings isn’t one of the reasons that attendance at cathedral services has been increasing in recent years, in contrast to the general decline?

05 April 2012 17:44
05 April 2012 15:49
paul forrest said...

Whilst the proposed changes should(must) be challenged…the short term get round for Wakefield Cathedral is to get the main contractor to invoice for the full expected cost before the changes take place. The tax point will be valid. It doesn’t mean you have to pay the full invoice, simply make stage payments against it (which you are probably doing anyway). Get full invoice not interims !!

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Paul, this does sound like the answer. I’m sure Wakefield would like to hear it direct (I cannot guarantee they will read it here!)

05 April 2012 20:45
05 April 2012 20:38
Philip said...

Well, the first thing to say is that ‘I don’t have a dog in this fight’, not being religious myself, so take anything I say with the caveat that most Guardianistas are quite encouraging of ‘moderate’ Christians/Moslems/Jews, esp. if they happen to be giving the Govt. a kicking, but would not be too unhappy if they disappeared. So even if I’m not in that camp, I am ‘declaring my interest’.

My analogy is with the role of buildings in those two different institutions, the bank and the library. I used to work in banking when the jargon was about moving to a world of ‘bricks and clicks’.. That is to say, many branches turned from being what a senior banker once called ‘part of the world’s biggest confidence trick’, where people imagine you’ve got all their money safely, because of the marbled halls… to one where the listed buildings of Lombard St were sold to move into ‘glass boxes’ as the people inside pondered the move ‘online’…

Of course, that move reached its zenith with the financial crisis where people who had their money in ‘Northern Rock’ were lucky enough still to be able to queue outside a bank branch and, despite the hassle and the flasks of tea, were able to get their dosh back.

Whereas those who had taken out ‘websaver’ accounts with an offshore bank couldn’t very well decamp to a ‘server room’ in Iceland because they were fed up looking at an ‘egg-timer’ on their computer screen..

Even so, most people do at least some of their banking over the phone these days…

05 April 2012 21:38
Philip said...

As for libraries, whatever one’s views on the coalition Government, their role has changed for good… Internet access is required to give people who might not have it at home the chance to participate online…

People do read books, but with things like Amazon dodging the tax, the landscape has changed and somehow the world has to adapt. I was at the local library last night to listen to a [free] talk by someone from the Scottish Islands. I was impressed by how modern the ‘old’ building looked inside with a coffee shop and what have you. They are doing a ‘film night’ next month linked into a ‘book club’ – without such innovations they might soon become deserted if they become irrelevant to the needs of younger people.

Unlike a heathen like myself, my sister does worship in Highfields Church in Cardiff. It is an old, but not ancient, building. The ‘gallery’, previously used on busy days to hold extra congregants has been dispensed with and turned, at great expense of money and the time of the worshippers, into offices and conference rooms for running Alpha courses and the like, and generally make it fit for the 21st Century.

There is a t-shirt slogan which I won’t quote here because it is blasphemous but which ends with the words “Look busy!”. I do applaud what the Church is doing, but one does, I think, have to ask what buildings are FOR.

Finally, someone did compare Pamela Greener to Victoria Wood, and as someone who has seen the over-rated latter in concert, I do think the former is very entertaining, and may yet persuade George Osborne to think again…

05 April 2012 21:52
Pamela Greener said...

They have read it here in Wakefield and sadly we are not allowed to pre invoice for two reasons. First the govt would impute VAT on works not completed by the new rule’s start date of 1 October 2012, and Second if the contractor got into business difficulties we would have to pay the full invoice and would then lose the money. So the easiest answer is actually to explain to the UK government why they are wrong over this, hence 2nd Ditty. We didn’t choose the building, the building chose us Important distinction. Tx for support from across the pond. Cheers! Pamela Greener

28 April 2012 17:48
Lay Anglicana said...

And cheers to you! You really are an encouragement to us all. Thank you for the explanation about the ramifications of VAT, where your earlier career obviously stands you in good stead.
I have every hope that your campaign will be successful – we can already see signs of cracks in the budget edifice. As I say, I almost (but not quite) feel sorry for George Osborne!

28 April 2012 20:02

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