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Brighton and Hove’s air ambulance chief raises budget concerns

- March 20, 2014

The chief executive of the air ambulance serving Brighton and Hove has raised concerns about the budget yesterday (Wednesday 19 March).

Adrian Bell, chief executive of Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance, said that he welcomed the announcement by George Osborne, the Chancellor, about VAT on aviation fuel.

But the announcement had created uncertainty, Mr Bell, said.

The budget set out plans for a five-year grant of £65,000 a year for air ambulance charities across the country.

Mr Osborne also pledged to contribute £1 million from the fines paid as a result of the interest rate fixing scandal towards the cost of a second air ambulance for London.

Mr Bell said: “The charity currently spends about £180,000 on aviation fuel per year, of which 5 per cent is VAT, therefore our total VAT bill is about £8,000 a year.

“I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement on VAT but note that it is a five-year grant of £65,000 per year for all air ambulance charities throughout the UK.

“I am therefore unclear as to whether we will get back our full VAT fuel bill each year.

“I am more interested in his decision to provide a new helicopter for London Air Ambulance out of the LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) fines fund because if this opens up access for us to that fund then I welcome it because we have some substantial capital expenditure projects as a result of our investment in night flying.

“If it doesn’t open up access to this fund for us then I find the Chancellor’s announcement perverse.”

More than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for air ambulances to be exempt from paying VAT on their aviation fuel.

It takes more than 560 litres to refill each of Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance’s two helicopters which burn 255 litres every hour when airborne.

On average, the helicopters use 500 litres to reach an emergency and fly an injured patient to a hospital.

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