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Amendment to Levelling-Up Bill brings clarity on church funding, says Bishop of Bristol

29 September 2023

Church of England

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull

LOCAL authorities will have the “confidence” to award grants for church building works after an amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill was passed in the House of Lords last week, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, has said.

A government amendment to the Bill, which passed its Third Reading in the Lords on Thursday of last week, “makes it clear that local authorities can provide grants for parish churches or places of worship, following many years of legal uncertainty”, a statement from Church House said.

During the Committee Stage, Bishop Faull, who is joint lead bishop for church and cathedral buildings, had asked the Government to “clarify the issue of local-authority funding responsibilities for all Christian churches, including parish churches” (News, 2 June).

The Taylor review of the sustainability of English churches and cathedrals, whose report was published in 2017, also proposed that the law be clarified (News, 22 December).

After the Third Reading, Bishop Faull said: “This amendment brings clarity to the law which will give local authorities confidence to award grants to local church buildings to enable them to serve their communities better.

“I have long been in conversation with Government about bringing in this change, and have been contacted by both local authorities and church councils who are anticipating this change with enthusiasm and gratitude.”

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, spoke in the Lords on behalf of Bishop Faull. “Local communities need physical, warm, and safe space for many forms of social activities that build community and social cohesion,” he said. “Worship is just one more example of this, and that in itself prompts the use of church buildings for wider purposes.

“The clarification of financial support for this from local authorities is helpful to us in England. However, I note that the issue of similar clarification remains of acute concern to churches in Wales, and I hope that the Minister will encourage His Majesty’s Government to bring the matter to the attention of the Welsh Government, with a view to bringing forward an equivalent legislative amendment as soon as possible.”

The Bill returns to the House of Commons before it can receive the Royal Assent.

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