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Church House faces more cuts

25 June 2009

by staff reporters

THE Church of England is facing further cuts in its national work. The General Synod will be asked next month to consider a set of recommendations for reductions during the next five years in the fields of liturgy, ecumenism, children’s work, urban and rural affairs, and chaplaincy, among others.

The recommendations, contained in the report Archbishops’ Council Spending Priorities 2010-2015, also include introducing greater controls over the clergy-training budget, by far the largest item paid for nation­ally. This has traditionally been unpredictable, depending on the number of candidates accepted for training. The review body behind Spending Priorities shies away from consideration of whether ordinands should contribute to their training, or whether theo­logical colleges should be reduced in number. It does suggest, however, setting a financial cap on the annual training budget as part of a package that includes a better assessment of the Church’s needs.

Since clergy training continues to be popular, and since the other elements of national expenditure are tightly controlled (covering grants, contributions to mission-agency clergy pensions, and retire­ment housing), the review group accepts that the “burden of adjustment is put disproportion­ately” on the national institutions.

The review group, chaired by Andrew Britton, who chairs the Archbishops’ Council’s finance committee, acknowledges that, in times of financial stringency, giving to the central bodies is more unpopular than normal. “Every point spent on national costs is money not available for the direct support of mission and ministry in parishes, including the financial support of clergy and lay workers.”

It suggests two scenarios. The first, that apportionment continues to rise at the rate of 2.7 per cent over the next five years. Assuming an interest rate of two per cent, this would give a real-term growth of 0.7 per cent in funding for the central institutions. The second, which the group considers more likely, is that funding from the dioceses will fall to 1.5 per cent for the first two years, then stagnate at two per cent.

This means that a saving of 11 per cent would be required from the funding of the national institutions for the five-year period. As a result, “difficult, and perhaps painful, decisions” would have to be taken. No area of work could be regarded as “sacrosanct or exempt from critical examination”.

The review group did not see it as its brief to specify where savings could be made, but it includes several pointers (see panel). It warned: “It needs to be recognised that the possibility of temporary recruitment freezes and redund­ancies, undesirable though they are, cannot at this stage be ruled out.”

It concludes that the Church’s response to the financial crisis should not be seen as a retrenchment. Part of the reason for the constraints is to leave the Church enough money to respond to new challenges and opportunities. “The vision remains for the Church to grow.”

Archbishops’ Council Spending Priorities 2010-2015, available from Church House Bookshop, £5.

Leader comment

Suggested areas for savings

• Less liturgical work, now that Common Worship has been published in full

• Less staff time on ecumenical work

• Scaling back resources devoted to urban and rural affairs and the study of new religious movements

• Fewer Council resources for work with children

• Bringing together support for hospital and education chaplaincy

• Streamlining casework for the cathedrals and church-buildings division

• Less advisory work by the ministry division

• Shorter sessions of the General Synod

• Review cost of servicing Synod debates

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