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Public supports using tax for upkeep of churches, says poll

10 February 2023

National Churches Trust

Repair work takes place on the roof of Newport Minster

Repair work takes place on the roof of Newport Minster

A POLL commissioned by the National Churches Trust (NCT) has gauged public support for government funding of church repairs.

Savanta polled 2061 adults in December. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of those questioned agreed that churches, chapels, and meeting houses were important for society in their provision of space for activities and support for local people, such as foodbanks and warm spaces. A similar fraction (73 per cent) also agreed that church buildings were an important part of the UK’s heritage.

Those surveyed were asked whether they supported the public funding of repairs. Half agreed that the Government should provide financial support; 22 per cent disagreed; and one quarter neither agreed nor disagreed. There was a slight preference for raising such payments through local taxation (45 per cent) rather than national taxation (40 per cent).

The chief executive of the NCT, Claire Walker, welcomed the public support for church buildings. “[People] recognise that churches provide important benefits to society and are also a key part of our history and heritage,” she said.

The high cost of keeping churches in good repair was an important factor. “Fixing a leaking roof can cost over half a million pounds. With few sources of funding, it can be extremely hard for local worshippers to find the money needed for urgent repairs.”

During the past two years, the NCT had helped to keep more than 500 churches open and in good repair with funding of more than £6 million, she said. “Government funding of church repairs, such as the £30 million provided through the post-Covid Heritage Stimulus Fund, can help ensure that more church buildings remain open and continue to provide community support such as foodbanks and warm spaces, as well as being key places for prayer and reflection and an important part of national heritage.”

The survey also suggests that churches are popular places to visit. More than half of those asked (54 per cent) had visited a church in the past year, one quarter for a religious service, and about one fifth (22 per cent) for a non-religious community activity or service such as a foodbank, playgroup, lunch club, concert, or meeting. Seventeen per cent had been to a church, chapel, or meeting house as a visitor or tourist.

Those surveyed were asked what would make them more likely to visit church buildings. The factors most mentioned were free entry (28 per cent); a café (26 per cent); being sure of a warm welcome (24 per cent); and information about the building’s architecture and heritage (24 per cent).

When asked about the benefits that churches offered to society, 59 per cent referred to provision of space for community activities, such as foodbanks, warm spaces, and playgroups; half referred to churches’ being a place of worship; and 47 per cent referred to their being part of local history and identity.

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