THE Synod received a presentation on the Church Commissioners'
The First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas
Whittam Smith, said that he had "never felt so confident as I feel
today", after 12 years in post. During that time, the Commissioners
had moved from maintenance to growth. He said that this had
included the creation of the joint body of Church Commissioners and
the Archbishops' Council focusing on mission initiatives, the
funding of a study of factors influencing church growth, and the
"famous four task groups", which would pose questions "about the
way in which we make our funds available".
He also spoke of the recent criticisms of the conduct of big
businesses. "I think it has always been like that, but we didn't
know a lot."
He praised the engagement work of the Ethical Investment
Advisory Group (EIAG) as having "a strong influence".
On the Commissioners' financial results,he described 2013 as "an
extremely good year". The assets had exceeded £6 billion for the
first time, and 2014 "isn't turning out too badly".
Responding to a question from Penny Allen
(Lichfield), he said that plans for the new Williams and Glyn's
bank were progressing. The Commissioners were the largest
shareholder, and their ethics adviser was being seconded to the
bank for one day a week. "As part of the good bank principles,
Williams and Glyn's will be sensitive to its community duties," he
said. It was "perfectly possible" that local credit unions might be
given floor space in the branches, and could also be included in
parts of the bank's literature.
The vice-chairman of the House of Laity, Tim
Hind (Bath & Wells), asked about consultation with
local communities when land was used for "lots of development
work", as was happening in parts of Somerset.
Mr Whittam Smith said that the Commissioners had "lots of land
all over the country, some of which is on the edge of growing
settlements and may be put forward for housing developments". The
procedures for getting permission for converting farmland into
housing land involved extensive engagement with local
The bonus paid to the Commissioners' investment director was
raised by Pamela Bishop (Southwell &
Nottingham), who asked whether paying such large amounts to one
person was contrary to the common good, and risked reputational
damage to the Church. She said that the investment director
received a bonus of £94,000, which took his total salary to
£345,000 for the year.
"I can do nothing more than accept that it is a very high sum of
money," Mr Whittam Smith said, It was "essential to have the very
best that we could find". The investment director "has brought
enormous benefit, and I have to say that I don't regret a penny of
what he receives."
Timothy Allen (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich)
spoke about apparent contradictions in the recent disposal of the
Commissioners' investment in the payday lender Wonga. Mr Whittam
Smith said that he was unable to go into details, but said that it
was very difficult to disentangle Wonga from the pooled investment;
but that "in the end, it suited the pool that we should exit, and
we were provided with a route [to] get out."
Welcoming the support of the Revd Ian
Bishop (Chester) for the Commissioners' support for church
growth in deprived areas, Mr Whittam Smith said it was "one of the
best things that we and the Archbishops' Council had done". He had
discovered that "contrary to what I thought, no area was too
difficult," and that "churchmanship didn't seem to matter as far as
success or failure are concerned."
Mr Whittam Smith told Canon Giles Goddard
(Southwark) that he wanted to wait until the EIAG had completed
"two or three different pieces of work" before he commented on
issues of fracking and climate change.