The Lincolnshire Show could be scaled back or even be at risk if a charitable rate relief is removed by the local council, according to the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society.
The LAS, which operates from Lincolnshire Showground and organises the Lincolnshire Show, is a non-profit making charitable organisation set up in 1869 that employs more than 20 staff. It has had an 80% charitable relief rate for decades.
However, this has now been called into question by West Lindsey District Council, who have taken the matter to court.
The council were approached for a response, but said “as this is an ongoing court case, we are unable to comment at this time”.
If the charitable relief rate is cut, the LAS, which has had a permanent home at the Lincolnshire Showground for more than 60 years, believes it would have big consequences and cause a “domino effect” on local businesses, as well as impacting on the Show itself which has an average of 60,000 visitors attending each year.
Jane Hiles, LAS chairman, claims that with an additional burden on finances imposed by the council entry prices could rise at the Lincolnshire Show, which it already pays £1 million to stage on average every year. It may also mean charging entry to some of the other educational events it hosts, which are currently free.
Tickets for the 2019 Lincolnshire Show were priced at £25 for adults and £8 for children.
The LAS 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 it doesn’t make money from its events or endeavours.
She 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 wet 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, added: “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.
“We fully intend to challenge the decision taken by West Lindsey District Council to remove charitable rate relief for the showground so that we can ensure the future of our much-loved show, charitable work and the viability of other businesses and organisations that rely on our events and venue for income.”
“Domino effect” on local businesses
Mary and Michael Davenport, owners of Cote Hill Cheese from Osgodby, have been exhibiting at the Lincolnshire Show for over a decade and rely on the showground events to sell their produce and help their business grow.
Jane Haigh, owner of Bridleway B&B which is located a mile from the showground, said she sees an uplift in room bookings that mirrors the showground events calendar. Amy Conyard, director at Louth-based gin producer Pin Gin, said they see a “huge increase in profits” during the Lincolnshire Show and Food & Gift Fair.
The Lincolnshire Show is attended by 6,000 local school children every year and 12,600 young people are involved in the LAS education programme. Around 4,000 LAS members also give donations to help fund education work, with over 100 business, representatives and supporters involved in the programme.