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CHARM pensioners face decades of overcharging

05 September 2014

RETIRED CLERGY renting homes from the Church of England Pensions Board have expressed dismay that it will be years, and in some cases decades, before their rent is reduced to the level deemed appropriate under the new target-rent scheme.

The transition to target rent for those living in Church's Housing Assistance for the Retired Ministry (CHARM) houses was confirmed in July (News, 1 August). From April, rent will no longer be based on gross income post-retirement, but on a range of factors, including property values.

In August, the Pensions Board sent all members of the scheme details of their calculated target rent, and confirmation that, depending on whether they were currently paying more or less than this, it would reduce or increase by £5 a month.

Those currently paying in excess of the target rent have expressed dismay and anger at the rate of transition. The Revd Barbara Knight is paying £774 a month for a house in Accrington, Lancashire. She has been informed that the target rent is £385. It will thus be 78 years before this lower rent is reached.

"We are penalised because we have our private pensions," she wrote in an unpublished letter to Church Times last month. "Although I knew we were paying massively over the odds for rental property in this area, we paid it because that was the requirement of the CHARM scheme. . .

"I appreciate greatly the security of living in a C of E Pensions property, and would not object to paying a reasonable amount over the target rent, but for it to be more than double is difficult to accept."

Last month, the Revd Paul Nicolson complained about the increase in his rent (of £5 a month) under the changes to CHARM (Letters, 15 August). Mrs Knight said that such complaints required "some stomaching".

In another letter, the Revd Ronald Roberts said that it would take 46 years for his rent of £643.05 a month to be reduced to the target of £410.14. By this point, he would be 120 years old. "Perhaps the time is long overdue for the Church to take a long hard look at how it treats its retired clergy," he wrote.

The Revd Geoffrey Garner and his wife wrote to say that their rent was currently £396.41 above the calculated target rent: "We worked willingly for a very low stipend, which was never enough to pay for a mortgage, and we were always reassured that we would be 'looked after' in retirement. It feels as if the only looking after that is happening here is the Church Commissioners looking after themselves!"

It is understood that some members of the scheme would have to wait 50 to 60 years before they reached their target rents. The letter from the Pensions Board states that it needs "to ensure that we maintained overall the same level of income".

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Pensions Board said: "In moving to any new rent system, there will always be those who have to pay more, and those who have to pay less.

Naturally those whose rent is being reduced would like to have the whole reduction immediately, and those whose rent is being increased want this to be done as slowly as possible.

"However, given that funding for the scheme is unlikely to increase significantly, there's no way to achieve this change to the new rent system without bringing it in over the same period for those who need to pay more and those who need to pay less."

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