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Cathedrals feel squeeze in state heritage budget


ENGLISH CATHEDRALS have called on the Government to take greater responsibility for church heritage, after it was announced last week that English Heritage grants to them had been halved to £1 million for 2005-06. The grants now cover less than ten per cent of the total repair and restoration bills.

English Heritage warned last year that the 2004 grant figure was likely to be halved in 2005 ( News, 6 February 2004), because of cuts in the heritage sector. These have led to a five-per-cent cut in English Heritage's budget, announced last month. ( News, 24 December).

Speaking on Tuesday, the chief executive of English Heritage, Dr Simon Thurley, said: "Our grants have been cut, and we have had to look around at what are lesser areas of priority, and cathedrals have been one of these. But, despite the cuts, we have preserved our grants to parish churches."

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Colin Slee, spokesman for the Association of English Cathedrals, said that although English cathedrals had been "enormously helped" by English Heritage over the past 15 years, they still had to find a further £10 million on top of the current grants.

"Cathedrals do not receive any other government support. We are deeply concerned at the reductions in public funding for heritage, with the government grant to English Heritage cut in real terms. Proposals in the Lottery Bill could also affect the funds available to the Heritage Lottery Fund."

Dean Slee said that in Europe the situation was fairer, particularly in France, where the state is responsible for maintaining cathedrals, and in Germany and Scandanavia, where taxation covers church funding.

Twenty cathedrals, 16 Church of England and four Roman Catholic, have benefited from this year's English Heritage grants. Salisbury, Lincoln and Hereford Cathedrals are beneficiaries of the largest grants, of £100,000 each.

Coventry Cathedral, where the grants were announced last week, receives £94,000 towards the cost of repairing its roof. "This work is urgent in view of leakages," said an English Heritage grant officer.

The smallest grants are given to Southwark Roman Catholic Cathedral, awarded £10,000 for repairs to stonework, and Wakefield Cathedral, awarded £14,000 for the second phase of a digital survey.

Since the English Heritage grants began 14 years ago, cathedrals have been allocated nearly £41 million for repairs.

Anya Matthews of English Heritage said that 27 cathedrals had applied for 37 different grants for 2004-05, totalling £3,953,000.
www.english-heritage.org.uk
www.cofe.anglican.org/news

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