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A wealthy widower has blasted the decision to bill him £460,000 for VAT after he donated more than £2 million to a London cancer hospital in memory of his wife.

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Jimmy Thomas, aged 78, gave £2.3m for the refurbishment of the Ellis Ward at the Royal Marsden cancer centre in Chelsea.

Mr Thomas, who made millions of pounds through a bingo hall empire across the East Midlands, described the VAT costs as “criminal” and called for a change in the law to ensure hospitals are exempt from the tax

The Conservative party donor has raised his concerns with the Prime Minister.

Mr Thomas said: “The fact that a world-leading hospital, at the very pinnacle of treatment excellence, should be slammed with a VAT bill just to improve facilities for essential NHS care is criminal. The law must be changed.

“The ward - which had 18 NHS beds and two private rooms - needed so much work to provide the comfort and dignity the patients so badly required, the refurbishment work was classed as a rebuild. And under the law, a rebuild is subject to VAT at 20 per cent.

“I have sat next to David Cameron at lunch and explained this atrocious state of affairs. So far, there has been no response and frankly I am tired of waiting.

“He vowed he would not take money from the sick and vulnerable to fill the financial black hole, and that’s exactly what he continues to do.”

A Revenue and Customs spokesman said: “Both building and refurbishment works are subject to VAT. This is the case for hospitals as with other types of building.

“VAT will be payable on such works, whether they are funded by government or through donation.

“The tax system provides a range of very generous tax reliefs to support charitable giving. Gift Aid alone adds around £1 billion annually to charity coffers.”

Mr Thomas donated the cash in tribute to his wife Alma, who was treated at the hospital before she lost her fight with ovarian cancer in 2008.

Now Mr Thomas, the co-founder of the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square, says he hopes to raise the £460,000 needed to meet the cost of the VAT bill through a fundraising trust he has set up for the Royal Marsden.

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