Mayoral candidate speaks out over £1million Caritas Anchor House bill

Sian Berry with Caritas Anchor House chief executive Keith Fernett, centre, and residents

Sian Berry with Caritas Anchor House chief executive Keith Fernett, centre, and residents - Credit: Caritas Anchor House

A London mayoral candidate has added her voice to calls for tax charges to Caritas Anchor House to be reversed.

Sian Berry, who will be standing as the Green Party candidate in next year’s election, spoke after visiting the Canning Town charity on Tuesday.

She met with chief executive Keith Fernett and a number of residents during a visit to see the work the charity does in supporting homeless and vulnerable people.

The charity is currently appealing against a decision by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to add an extra £1million of VAT to the development of new accommodation.

HMRC changed its status from “homeless hostel” to a “residential and life skills centre”, meaning its VAT liability would increase from the previously advised £250,000.

Ms Berry, who came fourth in the 2008 London mayoral election, said: “Having visited Caritas Anchor House and seen the valuable work it does for vulnerable people in one of east London’s most deprived areas, I think the charity is quite right to appeal against the levy of an additional £1 million in VAT.

“Aside from the fact that HMRC’s attitude seems unnecessarily heartless, in pure financial terms it makes no sense either: if we make it harder for charities to do what they do best and help the people most in need, the eventual cost in public services will be all the greater.”

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Caritas Anchor House currently provides accommodation for more than 230 homeless adults each year and also runs specialist support groups.

Mr Fernett said that since the VAT announcement was made in September, the charity had been working with HMRC to reach a solution.

He said: “We’re grateful to Ms Berry taking the time to visit us. It’s important that the potential leaders of our capital see not only the scale of deprivation that still exists in London, but also the fantastic work being done to help those most in need.

“We’re continuing to engage very constructively with HMRC and are very hopeful that a solution can be reached that suits all parties and enables us to continue our work.”

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