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Clergy pensions are costing more

31 July 2015

SPENDING on clergy pensions increased by almost £3 million in the past year, the Pensions Board’s annual report for 2014 has revealed.

A total of £30.2 million was paid out to retired ministers by the Church of England Pension Board in 2014, up from £27.3 million in the previous year. On 31 December, there were 10,222 pensioners receiving payment, and pensions were paid to a further 3859 clergy dependants.

During 2014, 466 people began receiving a C of E pension; 359 of those in the scheme died.

The figures were contained in the Pensions Board’s annual report for 2014, which was released this month. A further 3000 lay workers and 800 former staff of the National Church Institutions are also covered by the Board’s schemes.

A separate pension scheme for clerical service up to 31 December 1997 is run by the Church Commissioners. This paid out £122.6 million last year.

The annual increase in the Board’s pension for retired priests and bishops was pegged at inflation, which last year averaged 2.4 per cent. Clergy who retired in April can receive a pension worth between half and two-thirds of the national stipend, which amounts to £11-15,000 a year.

The pensions scheme is valued at a total of £1189 million, and has assets of £896 million, leaving a deficit of £293 million. In January last year, the Pensions Board decided to aim to eliminate the gap in its fund by 2024.

Besides providing pensions, the Pension Board also provides housing for retired clergy and their dependants if required (about one in four take up the offer).

In all, 1157 properties (including 59 new homes bought in 2014 at a cost of £11.3 million) are rented out to retired clergy. In addition, the Pensions Board operates a shared-ownership scheme for 114 homes, and supported 250 people in seven Christian retirement communities.

The Board’s investment fund brought in a return of 18.1 per cent from its main pool of assets, down slightly from 18.6 per cent in 2013.Total assets have grown 11.6 per cent over the past three years.

Donations continued to fall, however: £164,000 was given to the Pensions Board by parishes, individuals, and charitable trusts. In 2013 the sum was £204,000.

The total staffing costs of the Board were up by almost £400,000, despite the employment of three people fewer than in 2013.

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