THE Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme, which is due to end next year, has been extended until March 2021, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed this week.
The scheme pays grants equal to the VAT incurred on repairs such as urgent structural work and new roofs, and reduces the fund-raising burden on congregations. Up to £42 million a year is available, but the lack of current capital repairs funding means that the number of eligible projects will be smaller than in previous years.
The C of E senior church buildings officer, Dr David Knight, said that the announcement offered “welcome reassurance to many churches with plans for the next year or two that they have certainty over VAT”.
The Taylor Review of the Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals, whose report was published in 2017 (News, 22 December 2017) recommended that the Government spend £66 million a year on the upkeep of church buildings — more than the £42 million currently available but less than the “exceptional high” of 2014 and 2016, when the figure was £90 million.
Some of the recommendations are being piloted in the dioceses of Manchester and St Edmundsbury & Ipswich (News, 6 April 2018).
In 2015, the Church Buildings Review Group concluded that “by European standards, the Church of England bears an unusually heavy financial burden of maintaining part of the nation’s built heritage” (News, 16 October 2015).