Lincolnshire Showground to fight Council in court over charity relief

The Lincolnshire Agricultural Society (LAS) is a non-profit making charitable organisation set up in 1869 with the aim of educating people about food, farming and a sustainable environment.  As such the Society has been entitled to an 80% charitable relief on its non-domestic rates for decades; however this has now been revoked by West Lindsey District Council who are taking the matter to court.

Worth almost £70,000 per year to the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, the rate relief is a vital saving that supports the charity in its continued work educating schools, colleges and charitable organisations on food and farming.  The LAS is fighting the action, stating that without the rate relief a number of events will need to be looked at and potentially scaled back, including the Lincolnshire Show which has a remarked impact on the economy of Lincoln and the wider area.

Chairman of LAS – Jane Hiles

Jane Hiles, LAS chairman said “This has been a really difficult time for us. All of the work that the LAS carries out is for the good of the county – and its people and therefore, we strongly believe we should receive a charitable rate relief.

“Without the charitable rate relief, the LAS could be faced with an annual increased cost of almost £70,000 per year – money that is currently earmarked in delivering our educational work.”

The LAS, which has had a permanent home at the Lincolnshire Showground for more than 60 years and celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, gift aids 100% of surplus funds from non-charity bookings into maintaining the showground and delivering its educational work.

As a non-profit making organisation, the LAS does not make money from its events or endeavours, says Jane – and this includes the Lincolnshire Show.

“We do not make a profit on the Lincolnshire Show. It is a showcase event held every year for the good of the community, businesses and the farming network. It may seem that we are securely funded, but in fact our margins are extremely tight and we have to constantly review costs.  The wet (Lincolnshire) show in 2019 and the burden of the legal costs we incurred in the action with West Lindsey District Council, resulted in a trading loss of more than £100,000 in the year 2018/19″.

Jayne Southall, CEO of the Lincolnshire Showground. Photo by Steve Smailes Photography.

It could be a landmark case if the showground is forced to relinquish its charitable rate relief, said Jayne Southall, CEO of the Lincolnshire Showground.

“The showground operates in the same way as around 20 other major agricultural showgrounds across the UK. The UK agricultural industry relies on its county showgrounds to be centres which host conferences, meetings and major events,” she said.

“We believe the showground plays a pivotal role in allowing the LAS to achieve its charitable objective and that, as such, the venue should qualify for the charitable rate relief that it has always historically received.”

NFU East Midlands regional director Gordon Corner said: “Lincolnshire Agricultural Society plays an absolutely crucial role as an educational charity, teaching young people about the vital part farming plays in the county and the country.

“The innovative and exciting activities LAS puts on demonstrate not only how much work the society does but also how important it is that this progress continues.”

Karl McCartney MP for Lincoln

Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln said “Whilst the Officers of West Lindsey District Council may well or well not have been directed by the Council leaders, I will be writing to my colleague Sir Edward Leigh as the local Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, where the location of the Showground sits.  To ask that he makes representations (that I am very willing to support) for WLDC to take steps to assist and secure the future of the Lincolnshire Show and associated charitable endeavours, rather than potentially exert pressure that might see its demise.”

“If WLDC lawyers are successful, then what impact will this have on other events across our County such as the Lincoln Christmas Market?  In addition, the use of tax payers’ money to pay exorbitant lawyers’ fees has to be examined and a decision taken if it is ‘worth’ it.  Many electors in West Lindsey and across the County may well be of the view that it isn’t good value for money, nor good use of their taxes.”

“They rather like the Agricultural Show and all it stands for, as it is.”

The Lincolnshire Show: The facts and figures:

100% – of surplus funds are gift aided back into the charity

£11 million – the amount spent at the show itself and in surrounding restaurants, hotels and other facilities in Lincoln over the two-day event

£1 million – is how much the LAS has to pay to stage the Lincolnshire Show on average every year

60,000 – is the average number of visitors attending the show each year

12,600 – is the number of young people involved in the LAS education programme

6,000 – is the number of local school children attending the show every year

4,000 – the number of LAS members who give donations to help fund education work

104 – the number of businesses, representatives and supporters involved in the LAS education programme

27 – the number of charities attending the Lincolnshire Show in 2019

22 – the number of permanent jobs created by the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society