WORCESTER’S MP Robin Walker has hailed the decision to grant the city’s university a cash windfall of £1.5million as a ‘common sense’ conclusion to the long-running saga.
The University of Worcester was forced to pay VAT on constructions costs of Europe’s first integrated public and student library, The Hive, because it wasn’t being treated as a public building.
But after continued lobbying from Mr Walker, the library has now been handed the status as well as a welcome cash refund from the Government.
Mr Walker lobbied Government ministers ever since the £60million library opened back in 2012, arguing that the University should never have paid the large tax bill in the first place.
The city’s MP now hopes it will set a precedent for other councils and universities from across the UK who may want to join forces.
For a long time it appeared as if the University would never get the money back as there are complex rules surrounding shared services.
The University had to stump up the cash for the VAT bill to make the project work in sharing the building with Worcestershire County Council.
“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,” Mr Walker said.
“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 that 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.
“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 efficiently and sustainable facilities through sharing.”
Despite the victory, the University still pays VAT on its other projects across Worcester.
It paid more than £2million in VAT on its state-of-the-art sports facility, the Arena, another building which it shares with city residents.
A University spokesperson said: “The University is pleased to have received this refund from HMRC and we are grateful for Robin Walker MP’s assistance in resolving this matter.
“The Hive is a wonderful multi award-winning facility for all in Worcestershire.”