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Aggrandisement of the diocesan secretary

08 December 2010


From Mr Dennis Yates

Sir, — Barry Forrester (Letters, 19 November) is certainly not alone in expressing anxiety about the sub­stantial inflation in the salaries offered to prospective diocesan secretaries in recent months.

At one time, salaries paid to diocesan lay staff were not related in any way to scales that had become established for jobs with comparable responsibility elsewhere, but now­adays virtually all dioceses seem to have adopted General Synod salary scales, which are related to those in the Civil Service. This is, in prin­ciple, a sensible development, but, of course, much depends on which scales are adopted.

Until recently, the scale applicable to Principals has generally been accepted as appropriate, but recently it seems likely that a higher grade is being adopted in some dioceses. This, I suspect, is the result of the exaggerated concept of the role as it is increasingly being described in advertisements for vacancies, particularly those drawn up by profes­sional head-hunting firms, which appear to be involved much more often than in the past.

The firm responsible for the Chelmsford advertisement has also been involved in at least two other cases this year, and is remarkable for the high-flown hyperbole in which its advertisements are couched.

One of these cases was for the diocese of Ripon & Leeds. I held that post more than 40 years ago, and, even allowing for the lapse of time, it was totally unrecognisable from this advertisement, with its talk of “bringing exceptional vision and creativity”, contributing to “strategic direction”, and “working proactively across and beyond the diocese”. The salary offered, £61,000, was some 2000 per cent more than in the 1960s, and I very much doubt whether general inflation has matched that. Since then, we have had Leicester at £65,000 and now Chelmsford at £75,000, all in a matter of a few months.

The increasing application of the term “Chief Executive” to this role is also to be regretted. It invites com­parison with those who hold that title in local government; but their role is quite different and carries far more responsibility. In the Church, it is surely the bishop who is the real “chief executive”. The diocesan secretary’s role is to ensure that the machinery for the diocese runs smoothly, and to advise the bishop and the synod on the wide range of matters that come within his province, not to make policies himself.

One of the tasks of the next appointee at Chelmsford, according to the advertisement, is to “inject enterprise to inspire new income streams”, whatever that may mean. Surely the only “income stream” that matters is what the parishes can contribute to the diocesan purse, and that will come under increasing strain if some dioceses do not exercise more restraint in this area.

25 Carlton Court, Wells
Somerset BA5 1SF

From Canon E. W. M. Kelly

Sir, — It is with a certain amount of interest I read about a diocesan secretary attracting a salary of £75,000 plus non-contributory pension.

For the year of 1961, when I and my new wife went to Papua New Guinea for my second curacy, I was appointed to be the locum for the diocesan secretary, with responsibility for all the diocesan finances, as well as being Rector of Samarai, an island parish (which involved patrols by boat to other nearby islands and part of the mainland), with hospitals and a prison requiring attention. I was also Missions to Seamen Chaplain and qualified back-up skipper of the 50-ton Mission Vessel (if required).

Although I was certainly not a trained and qualified secretary or accountant, I was nevertheless responsible for keeping more than 240 separate accounts, and ensuring that all necessary supplies — from razor blades to building materials — were loaded on the Mission Vessel, for delivery every six weeks to all the mission stations. I had to arrange for payment, as well as deal with all official correspondence not addressed to the Bishop.

In the office, I had the help of a schoolboy with limited command of English (the main language used), a typewriter, and a mechanical adding machine. My wife helped with the monthly trial balance, and was responsible for looking after all the mission staff passing through, and visitors, including those from visiting ships at the deep-sea port.

Our salary, for everything except bed and board, was £26 per annum each. I don’t suppose that equates to £75,000 nowadays. When we returned home, I received a bill from the Pensions Board for a missing five years’ contribution to our non-contributory pension.

133 Borough Road
Hants GU32 3LP

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