Norfolk and Suffolk lifeboats celebrate VAT on fuel concession

The region's lifeboats are set to collectively save thousands of pounds a year after the Chancellor announced the waiving of VAT on fuel for inshore rescue boats.

The budget concession was also extended to air ambulances but the East Anglian service will not stand to benefit as it leases rather than owns its aircraft.

The 20 pence a litre saving will make a significant difference for Norfolk and Suffolk's lifeboats which can each answer upwards of 50 calls a year as well as go out on vital weekly practice drills.

Lifeboat services will also benefit from the budget announcement that proceeds from fines handed down in Libor rate fixing court cases will be spread to rescue boats as well as other charities.

Paddy Lee, coxswain at the RNLI's Great Yarmouth and Gorleston station, said: 'The decision to waive VAT on fuel is brilliant news.

'Our inshore boat burns 30 litres an hour on shouts and we get around 65 shouts a year. We also go out on weekly exercises burning another 20 to 30 litres.'

He said the saving would be 'huge' for the RNLI charity taken as a whole and it would help to offset the huge cost of fuel for the bigger all weather lifeboats - theirs burned 360 litres an hour.

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Paul Garrod, chairman of the independent lifeboat at Caister near Yarmouth, said: 'We have to raise £160,000 a year as a charity and any help is handy.

'We could potentially save more than £1,000 a year on VAT and if someone gave us a donation of that size we would welcome them with open arms.'

Helen Dodman, a spokesman for East Anglian Air Ambulance, said: 'The VAT decision is great news but unfortunately it won't affect us.

'We lease our helicopters and we work in the contract that we don't pay VAT.'

However, she said the measure would benefit the majority of the country's air ambulances.

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