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£20 million given in remembrance of WWI fallen

25 April 2014


First-hand: the Chancellor, George Osborne, is shown round Derby Cathedral by the Dean, the Very Revd Dr John Davies, and the Cathedral Administrator and Chapter Clerk, Jackie Croft, last month  

First-hand: the Chancellor, George Osborne, is shown round Derby Cathedral by the Dean, the Very Revd Dr John Davies, and the Cathedral Administrato...

THE bidding period has opened for the £20-million First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, last month (News, 21 March).

The first round of applications was launched today by the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Government.

To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate that the repairs are necessary. The repairs must have been identified by the architect or surveyor responsible for the cathedral, and should be needed "to keep the building wind-proof, weather-tight, safe, and open to the public, and done to prevent further deterioration of the fabric of the listed building".

Applications will be considered by a panel appointed by the Government, in consultation with both Churches. This panel will consider the necessity of the repair, the significance of the building according to English Heritage's conservation principles, and financial need. The deadline for the first round of grants is 30 May 2014.

For more information visit the ChurchCare website.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, explains why he has created the £20-million fund

BRITAIN's cathedrals are not only at the heart of Christian worship but also at the root of our shared history. They gave many of our cities their legal and cultural identity, and will be a focal point for local and national remembrance as we come together to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

This does not mean they are just icons of the past. They are active community hubs, and are at the centre of significant urban regeneration plans: Peterborough, Leicester and Blackburn are all creating cathedral quarters.

When I visited Derby Cathedral last month, I heard about their work with some of the most disadvantaged communities, and their evening lectures and seminars. Near my constituency, there are back-to-work schemes at Manchester Cathedral. There are apprenticeships and training opportunities at Canterbury and York, and even popular concerts at Liverpool Cathedral.

The Church of England's 41 cathedrals welcome over 11 million visitors a year with only 6000 staff but over 15,000 dedicated volunteers - demonstrating how much cathedrals contribute, but also how much they depend upon the communities around them.

This has been part of their historical resilience, but despite this admirable support, upkeep and restoration costs fall disproportionately on these small dedicated local groups for some of the oldest working buildings in the country. As a result, the Church of England predicts a repair funding shortfall over the next five years of tens of millions of pounds.

Every time money needs to be spent, it has to be diverted from the valuable front-line community work they do. There is a misconception that the grandeur of the buildings in some way reflects an equally impressive cash flow. Hearing from deans and bishops all over the country, I know this is not the case. 

So I was proud to announce in my Budget that £20 million will be available over two years for Church of England and Roman Catholic cathedrals through the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs fund. This will not cover the whole bill, but will provide essential relief for urgent repairs, and a stimulus for individual fundraising drives.

It is because of the tough decisions we have taken in day-to-day spending that we can make targeted and deserved investments like this, necessary to safeguard these landmarks for the next generation.

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