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UK news in brief

16 December 2022

Lichfield Cathedral

Damaged stonework on the central spire of Lichfield Cathedral

Damaged stonework on the central spire of Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral Chapter launches appeal for repairs

LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL has launched a public appeal to raise the last tranche of funding needed to carry out urgent repairs to the central spire. Eroded stonework was found during an inspection in 2015, and in 2019 storms worsened the damage. Tower tours were cancelled, and the stonework temporarily secured. Since then, the cathedral has raised almost three-quarters of the £1.1 million needed for repairs, and to update the central tower observation room. The Dean, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said this week: “We are now asking our local community for their support. We know that times are difficult, and the cost-of-living is a real issue we all face. We simply ask people to consider contributing whatever is possible for them to help us clear this final hurdle. It will secure the spire for everyone to enjoy for centuries to come.”


Commissioners to vote ‘with discretion’

THE Church Commissioners are to use their shareholdings to improve companies’ records on human rights, it was announced on Thursday of last week, Human Rights Day. Starting next year, as part of their responsible investment programme, the Commissioners will vote against the re-election of relevant directors in companies that fail to meet their expectations on issues such as discrimination, modern slavery, and the rights of indigenous people. This includes directors with named responsibility for human rights, or board chairs, who are up for re-election in 2023 AGMs. The Commissioners will also work with data providers and proxy advisers to expand the assessment of companies. Dan Neale, who is the social-themes lead for responsible investment at the Commissioners, said: “We expect companies in which we invest to be actively committed to prevent, mitigate, and account for human rights risks and impacts in all their activities. . . We will use our vote with discretion, when we think it’s appropriate to signal our disapproval.”


Man sentenced for harassing vicar

A MAN has begun a five-month prison sentence after he admitted to leaving explicit sexualised voicemail messages on the phone of the Vicar of Beacon Hill, in the diocese of Swansea & Brecon, the Revd Petra Goodband, local media report. The offender, Alan Newton, 58, of Lant Avenue, Llandrindod, now in HM Prison Cardiff, had previously denied the two charges of harassment and of sending by public communication network an indecent, obscene, or menacing message between 12 and 15 January. He changed his pleas on the morning of his trial on 23 November. Mr Newton, who already had a criminal record, was later sentenced at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court, where Michael Williams, prosecuting, said: “[Ms Goodband] initially got on well with the defendant. Because of his background, she took him under her wing and felt sorry for him. Their relationship deteriorated though, and she received a number of threatening and abusive voicemails from the defendant.” In a victim-impact statement read to the court, Ms Goodband said that she suffered nightmares. “I have visions of the defendant coming to harm me or harm himself. My concern is that without proper care he is capable of doing this to someone else.” Mr Newton must pay her £300 compensation. A five-year restraining order was granted.


Monks to move out of Alton Abbey

ANGLICAN Benedictine monks are to move out of Alton Abbey, Hampshire, and the property is to be disposed of, it has been announced. In a letter criculated this week to oblates and supporters of the Abbey, the Abbot, the Rt Revd Dom Giles Hill, and the Prior, Dom Andrew Johnson, write that, during lockdown, their Bishop Visitor had asked them “to consider the future of the Abbey and the Community”. The reason for this was that, at the time, the average age of the five monks was “just over 70”, and there had been no vocational enquiries for the past seven or eight years. Among the options that they were asked to consider was “to continue as monks but to disperse so that our individual needs can be provided for”. They have decided, reluctantly, to choose this option, the letter says. “Once the Community is no longer in the house, our secular Trustees can then act to dispose of the property, most probably by sale. Our preferred option would be for the property to be purchased by another religious community, though it is likely that would not be by a Church of England organisation, since many of them are in similarly difficult situations themselves.”


Ofsted: Pandemic effects on education ongoing

CHILDREN and young people “are paying the price for the Government’s failure to invest in vital services” and in the education workforce, the Children’s Society has said. The charity was responding to the publication of the Ofsted Annual report on Tuesday, which finds that education and children’s social care have struggled to recover in the wake of the pandemic, largely owing to staffing issues. It reports significant staff shortages, absences, and recruitment issues and a lack of external support services in the school year from September 2021. A summary of the report states: “Children are bearing the brunt of these issues, as staff shortages create problems that can affect their quality of education and care.” The head of policy and research at the Children’s Society, Sarah Wayman, said: “Years of cuts to early support services for children of all ages and their families mean problems are escalating to crisis point, jeopardising the safety, wellbeing and education of young people and making it more likely social care will need to intervene.”


Diocese prays for dead in Jersey explosion

SEVEN people are confirmed to have died in an explosion at a residential block of flats in St Helier, Jersey, on Saturday. A recovery operation continued this week with no expectation of finding survivors. A vigil was due to be held on Wednesday at the Town Church and books of condolence have been opened at parish and public halls. A statement from the diocese of Salisbury (which now has oversight of the island) read: “We continue to pray for the whole community of Jersey and those closely affected by this tragedy, which follows the tragic loss of the fishing vessel on Thursday. May God’s everlasting arms hold you.” Last week, a boat sank in the Channel off Jersey after colliding with a freight vessel. The bodies of two fishers were found on Tuesday.


JRS deplores asylum backlog plan

THE Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK has deplored the Prime Minister’s plan, announced on Tuesday, to clear a backlog of nearly 100,000 asylum claims by the end of 2023. It includes criminalising then removing tens of thousands of people who claim asylum after travelling to the UK by small boats and resuming “hostile environment” checks on bank accounts which were suspended after the Windrush scandal. JRS UK’s interim deputy director, Megan Knowles, said that the Government had “once again demonstrated its commitment to performative cruelty towards and scapegoating of refugees”. It followed “decades of an asylum system that has let down refugees, and recent policy and legislation designed to punish them for the realities of being displaced. . . Finding more ways to criminalise, punish, and exclude refugees is a distraction from real issues.”

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