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Good news and bad news on parish finances, statistics show

20 October 2017


Pressing needs: St Helen's, Lundy, received a £20,000 grant from the National Churches Repair Grant in August, to help fund roof repairs

Pressing needs: St Helen's, Lundy, received a £20,000 grant from the National Churches Repair Grant in August, to help fund roof repairs

GIVING to Church of England parishes has increased for the first time since the economic crisis began in 2007, the latest figures have revealed.

Total financial giving, including standing orders, collections at services, and other gifts, amounted to £490 million in 2015, according to the new Parish Finance Statistics report released by the C of E’s research division on Wednesday.

This was slightly up from 2014: total giving that year came to £486 million, when adjusted for inflation using the consumer prices index.

Giving to the C of E’s 12,000 parishes, however, had previously declined every year since 2007, just before the recession began, when it amounted to £553 million in 2015 terms.

Giving via collections during services has remained largely stable in cash terms over the past decade, at about £57 million a year. This means that, in real terms, adjusted for inflation, it has fallen about 22 per cent. Planned giving has also fallen over the past ten years, but by much less: about four per cent in total.

The number of people who give money each year to Anglican parishes has also fallen, by 14 per cent. In 2015, 543,000 people gave, compared with 634,000 in 2007. This means that the average giver donated £6.28 each week to his or her parish church in 2015.

Total parish income, which also includes revenue from trading, fund-raising, grants, legacies, parochial fees, and more, has also fallen significantly in the ten years since the economic crisis began. In 2007, at the height of the previous boom, parishes took in £1.124 billion in 2015 terms. Almost ten years later, income had fallen almost nine per cent to £1.026 billion, although income actually bottomed out in 2013 at £985 million.

By far the largest source of income was giving: planned and recurring donations, collections during services, gift aid, and other forms of giving provided parishes with 57 per cent of their income in 2015.

The other significant revenue streams were trading (such as bookstalls, letting the church hall, or selling the parish magazine), which provided 11 per cent of total income; grants (nine per cent); fund-raising (six per cent); legacies (five per cent); parochial fees (four per cent); and dividends, interest, or property income (four per cent).

There have been similar trends in spending, which peaked in real terms in 2009, then fell, and only began to increase again in 2014. In 2015, parishes spent £971 million, leaving a surplus of £54.4 million, or 5.6 per cent. Since 2007, total spending has fallen by six per cent, once adjusted for inflation.

The largest portion of spending goes on paying the parish share, which amounted to 34 per cent in 2015. Buildings were the next main outgoing: 18 per cent of expenditure went on repairs and new building costs. About 1200 parishes reported spending a total of £47.6 million on new building projects alone.

Other significant spending went on church running expenses (13 per cent), salaries (11 per cent), trading costs (five per cent), charitable giving (five per cent), utility bills (four per cent), and clergy expenses (three per cent).

The figures have been collated from the annual Return of Parish Finance form. Some 83 per cent of parishes filled out the form, and the remaining missing data has been estimated from diocesan totals.

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