THE Church Commissioners were last week celebrating the best
results for their investment fund in eight years, after their
annual report was published, showing that their portfolio had grown
by 15.9 per cent.
This took the total value of the Commissioners' fund to £6.1
billion, and was the best annual return since 2005, when the fund
achieved an increase of 19.1 per cent.
The Commissioners' investments comfortably surpassed their
target return of RPI inflation plus five per cent, which in 2013
amounted to 7.7 per cent. They also beat a common comparison fund
that reported an 11-per-cent return last year.
The Secretary to the Church Commissioners, Andrew Brown, said on
Wednesday: "I am delighted to report the very strong investment
performance the fund produced. As our annual report shows, the
Commissioners continue to identify and fund the Church's work in
areas of need and opportunity throughout England."
The annual report showed that the Commissioners spent £207.8
million last year, of which almost two-thirds was for clergy
pensions. The remainder was spent mostly on grants to poorer
dioceses (£34.4 million), archbishops and bishops (£31.2 million),
and cathedrals and church buildings (£12.9 million).
Of the amount that the Church of England's spends each year, 15
per cent comes from the Commissioners, and almost three-quarters
from giving by parishioners, the report says.
When returns are averaged out over five, ten, and 20 years, the
Commissioners have still beaten their inflation-plus-five-per-cent
target. Over the past two decades, the average annual return has
been 9.6 per cent, and the fund has grown from £2.4 billion in 1994
to £6.1 billion today.
The First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith,
writes in the report: "2013 was a very good year for the portfolio.
Everything that could go right did go right. Indeed, it may prove
to have been a turning point, the moment when the Church decisively
increased its focus on securing numerical and spiritual growth in
Gavin Oldham, chairman of the stockbroker The Share Centre, and
a former Church Commissioner, said that the Commissioners had every
reason to be pleased with their performance.
"It was a very successful year," he said. "I'm very pleased for
that longer-term success, which has completely expunged the
difficulties they had at the beginning of the 1990s. It speaks a
lot for the quality of the Commissioners team."
The £6.1 billion of investments controlled by the Commissioners
are highly diversified, and include stakes in, among others,
commercial and residential property, timber, farmland, company
stocks, and hedge funds. Among their investments, the Commissioners
own the Royal Lancaster Hotel near Hyde Park in London, as well as
a ten-per-cent share of Britain's largest shopping mall, the
MetroCentre in Gateshead. After UK Government Treasury bonds, the
next biggest stock-exchange holdings were in Royal Dutch Shell,
Vodafone, HSBC, and BP.
The Commissioners' investments came under the spotlight last
year after it emerged that they had a small stake in the firm that
owns Wonga, the payday lender that had been criticised by the
Archbishop of Canterbury (News, 26
At the time, the Archbishop said that it was "irritating", and
promised that it would not happen again. The Commissioners' annual
report admits, however, that, with certain investments, they cannot
insist upon adherence to their ethical-investment policy (which is
against investing in a company where more than 25 per cent of
turnover comes from high-interest-rate lending).
"While we would like to remove our small investment exposure to
Wonga, we may not be able to do so for some time," the report says.
"However, we cannot achieve - and do not seek to achieve - a
'perfectly ethical' portfolio. The investment and business
environment is complex and imperfect; recognising our own
imperfections, we seek to use our influence as investors to
In recognition of the fund's excellent performance, the most
highly paid member of staff at the Commissioners received a £91,000
bonus - boosting his or her salary to £334,000 a year.
A spokesman for the Commissioners declined to comment on who the
individual was, or how the bonus was calculated.
On Thursday, the Commissioners' Head of Investments, Tom Joy,
was named investment head of the year at the annual Asset Investors
European Innovation awards.
A "THRIVING" high street will be destroyed if a new
out-of-town retail park, backed by the Church Commissioners, goes
ahead, campaigners warned this week, writes Madeleine
Protesters gathered outside Westminster Abbey on
Wednesday to challenge the Commissioners' investment in
Grovebury Retail Park, which will be located 1.5 miles south of
Leighton Buzzard town centre.
Victoria Harvey, an environmental campaigner in Leighton
Buzzard, believes that the park will cripple the town, which is
currently a "social hub".
"The Church Commissioners will be making money by
destroying our high street and community, and going against the
town council, the community forum, and a strong public campaign,"
she said. "The developers openly admit that they will be taking
£2.09 million a year from the town-centre shops. We believe that it
will be far more, and will destroy our high street and
The park, which has received planning consent from
Central Bedfordshire Council, is being built by Claymore Group, in
partnership with the Church Commissioners, who own the
On Monday, a spokesperson for the Church Commissioners
said: "We respect the right of anyone to voice their opinion and
stage a peaceful protest. Equally, the Commissioners always take
into account local interest and planning regulations, and take
seriously their obligation and right under the Charities Act to
seek the best price possible while selling land or
"Both the planning and legal processes in this case have
been thorough. The proposed development at Grovebury, Leighton
Buzzard, will, in the judgement of the authorities, provide a
much-needed facility for the town, will attract new inward
investment, and will create a large number of jobs for local
Miss Harvey said: "The Church Commissioners are
supporting a new myth that people should shop out of town by car in
an impersonal retail park, and then come into town for coffee and
community events; but people do not have the time to do
"Shopping is both a necessity and a new leisure
activity, and if it takes place in a town centre, community events
can take place alongside it. Shoppers get to know the local
shopkeepers and market-traders, who put them in touch with other
groups, and community is born.
"Local shopkeepers and market stall-holders often
provide invaluable listening and social support and community
creation to many people. The town centre on market days is a social
hub for many pensioners who cannot afford to get out
Ms Harvey is supported in her protest by her father,
Canon Anthony Harvey, who was Sub-dean of Westminster Abbey from
1982 until his retirement in 1999.
He said: "The Christian faith is all about mutual
service and responsibility in a community. The mission of the
Church of England is to be a model of a mutually dependent and
caring community. When I see a Christian agency such as the Church
of England apparently abandoning this mission in favour of
commercial interests I feel bound to protest."