Dean quits troubled cathedral

by
02 November 2006

THE DEAN of Bradford, the Very Revd Christopher Hancock, has resigned in the midst of continuing financial problems at the cathedral.

Dr Hancock, aged 50, has given no reason for his resignation, other than his belief that his work on the cathedral’s financial crisis is at an end. He was appointed two years ago, in June 2002, and has no job to go to now. He is away until the end of August and was unavailable for comment.

Since his appointment, the Dean has been working with the cathedral’s administrator, Michael Leeming, to resolve the financial difficulties at Bradford Cathedral, which was left with a debt of £1.4 million after the collapse three years ago of its millennium project, the multifaith Life Force exhibition (News, 9 January). Creditors include the Church Commissioners, Barclays Bank, and the architects, builders and designers of the exhibition.

Past Forward, which managed the exhibition on the cathedral’s behalf, was the only creditor unwilling to accept the offer of a dividend to be paid in final settlement when a new use was found for St Peter’s House, which housed the exhibition. The company obtained a county-court judgment against the cathedral last year, ordering repayment of its remaining £100,000 debt. All the creditors were circulated last month with details of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which would pay off some of the money owed, but a meeting planned for 29 July was postponed until 12 August to allow all the papers to be brought together. It was thought unlikely that the Dean would attend.

Dr Hancock was reported in the Yorkshire Post on 9 July as saying: " For all closely involved in the failure of Life Force and the quest for an appropriate solution, this has been a harrowing time. Hurt, embarrassment, uncertainty and anger have been felt by many.

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"I hope the CVA will be seen as the best — if not the only — way out of this terrible mess, though I deeply regret no other solution has proved possible. Many people inside and outside the Church have shown remarkable patience, understanding and support during this time, and I am personally grateful to all of them." Past Forward was quoted as saying it, too, hoped a line could be drawn under the matter.

The Dean’s reticence has put the cathedral in a difficult position when it came to answering queries, said Mr Leeming on Monday.

A statement from the diocese said he had been pivotal in finding a resolution to the difficulties. Dr Hancock made a short contribution to the statement: "I have believed for some time that my primary task here was to solve the St Peter’s House problem. I am optimistic that the CVA will be agreed and signed by creditors . . . and with that believe that my work here will be at an end. My wife, Suzie, and I leave many friends in the city and diocese, and look forward with anticipation to what lies ahead."

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd David James, expressed his gratitude for the Dean’s hard work in pursuing a solution to the problems. "It has been a difficult and painful time for everyone, and I wish him and Suzie well in the future."

The Dean’s last service is due to take place on 26 September.

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