Winchester synod handed axe after £1.4m shortfall

by
26 November 2009

by Pat Ashworth

Vulnerable post: the Revd Simon Stevens

Vulnerable post: the Revd Simon Stevens

DIOCESAN and clergy posts and uni­versity chaplaincies are among the potential casualties of deep cuts pro­posed in the diocese of Winchester to save £1 million on its 2010 budget. The news came “like a bolt out of the blue”, one of the post-holders said on Tues­day.

The diocesan synod will vote to­morrow whether to accept or reject the revised budget; it cannot amend it. An earlier budget, presented on 16 May, re­tained staffing at current levels for 2010, including the posts of Canon Missioner; Partnership Development Director; chaplains at Southampton University, Southampton Solent Uni­versity, and Bournemouth FE/HE College; Chaplain for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Communications Assistant; Schools Adviser; and Re­sources and Information Officer.

These will all be axed if the revised budget is accepted. The loss of seven clergy posts, plus a reduction in the number of curates’ posts from nine to seven for 2010, would save £230,000. The post of Archdeacon of Bourne­mouth would be combined with another half-time post. Savings of £113,000 would come from a reduc­tion in lay posts.

The diocesan newspaper, The Vine, would go. The administration depart­ment would “cease”, and others would merge. Delay in enhancements to clergy houses and other action on property would save £216,000. There would be no contribution to the staf­f-ing of the Bishop’s Office (£22,000). Mission grants to parishes would be removed, saving £41,000. One new post would be created: a stewardship adviser, at an estimated salary of £46,000.

The 16 May budget showed expen-diture of £12,166,000, including a pro­vision of £600,000 for “deanery abate­ments”. But the responses from the deaneries amounted to only £10,523,000 of the £11,566,000 sought, and the budget was revised to £10,616,000.

The story broke when the finance-committee chairman of Winchester deanery, Hugh Podger, included a “Note on the Diocesan Budget for 2010” among papers for a deanery meeting last Wednesday. His deanery has the second highest deficit in Parish Share, at £193,000.

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He quoted from the introduction to the revised budget, which refers to “the need for continuing structural re­organisa­tion as well as . . . potential cost savings which we believe could be achieved without substantial damage to our Vision”.

The 2010 budget showed an in­crease in the Parish Share of 3.8 per cent over 2009. Diocesan advice to PCC treasurers after the budget pro­posal in May noted that a shortfall of £1.4 million had meant drawing on reserves. “A shortfall of this magnitude mid-year is clearly a challenge in terms of paying stipends, salaries, and sup­pliers’ bills, and so anything you can do to bring your PCC’s Parish Share up to date would be much appre­ciated.”

Tomorrow’s meeting will also con­sider a motion to terminate the Old Alresford Place (Conference Centre) Trust and transfer its assets and lia­bilities to the diocesan board of finance by 31 December. The recom­mendation has come independently from the Church Commissioners.

At the University of Southampton, news spread fast that the post of the Anglican chaplain, the Revd Simon Stevens, was in jeopardy. By the end of Tuesday, 650 students had signed a petition on Facebook.

A statement from the diocese on Wednesday said that the students’ action was “heart-warming but may be misplaced”. The diocesan budget had “not yet been through the all-important synod discussion and approval or rejection stage”.

The diocesan secretary, Andrew Robinson, said: “Those who are pro­testing should be assured that a budget of this kind is so critically important that to second-guess what might happen is not helpful, al­though we understand the real concern being expressed.”

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