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Synod: Budget

18 July 2014

IT WAS a depleted chamber for Sunday evening's debate on the Archbishops' Council budget, because a number of members had deserted to watch the World Cup final.

John Spence (Archbishops' Council), who chairs the Finance Committee, marked the occasion by delivering a speech full of football puns - a mood that was to continue throughout the debate. Mr Spence told General Synod members that he wanted to "score no home goals", and suggested that footballing terms might "add some humour to what otherwise might be a dry occasion".

He said that the Commissioners had kept to their commitment of not increasing the amount of money requested from dioceses by more than the rate of inflation over the past five years.

He described the commitment as "noble, bold, and appropriate", because it recognised the financial pressures on dioceses, and made staff think about making efficiencies wherever possible, and Church House think about whether it should stop doing things rather than continue to do them "simply because things have always been done that way".

But, he said: "It will become clear that such a commitment is neither possible nor appropriate going forward. . . The "unintended consequence" of the commitment was to "focus everybody on cutting costs all the time rather than measuring the effectiveness of the spend. Cost efficiency is no good if it is not matched with effectiveness."

He said that the budget was going to have to increase in future years: "If we are truly to be a growing Church in terms of numbers and spirituality, we are going to have to have at the centre a very efficient but, equally, a very effective engine room in order to co-ordinate and promulgate the work."

The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) welcomed the "refreshingly realistic statement of where we are and where we want to go", but asked for "further work in clarifying the goals".

Gavin Oldham (Oxford) called for diocesan budgets to be presented to the General Synod, "not for approval", but so that the Synod could "monitor the overall cost of the Church, to make sure we are doing things in the most efficient way".

The Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough) said that it was "vitally important that people don't come to the end of their ministry and find themselves homeless". He questioned whether the CHARM scheme for retired-clergy housing could be provided by the commercial sector more cheaply.

Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) suggested that claims of abuse could be a "crisis" for the Church of England, and asked what provision was being put in place for compensation claims.

The Revd Charles Read (Norwich) warned that training institutions were "under immense financial strain, to the point where it is difficult to do all the things we want to do".

Mr Spence replied that it was "totally inappropriate to start creating a compensation fund at this stage, as it might be seen to be some admission of responsibility, which can't be done until each case is reviewed".

In response to Mr Read, he reminded the Synod that the budget under Vote 1 had increased by more than 40 per cent over the past ten years, while the number of ordinands had stayed "broadly static".

Elizabeth Paver (Sheffield)welcomed the increase in funding for the Anglican Communion Office.

The Synod approved the Archbishops' Council's expected expenditure for 2015 in the following areas: training for ministry: £13,437,670; national support: £11,103,305; grants and provisions: £1,264,314; mission agencies' clergy pension contributions: £772,500; CHARM scheme: £4,151,591.

It also approved a proposed Table of Apportionment detailing the dioceses' individual contributions to the budget in 2015, as well as a "pooling adjustment" for additional maintenance grants for ordinands.

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