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Increase stipends by 9.5 per cent, clergy union suggests

09 June 2023

Proposals refer to rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis

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STIPENDS should increase by 9.5 per cent next year in response to rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, a union representing more than 1800 of the clergy has said.

The Church of England Employee and Clergy Advocates (CEECA) union submitted proposals to the Archbishops’ Council’s Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee last week.

The submission draws on the latest economic forecasts: “Significantly higher food costs, combined with current high energy prices that show no sign of abating, create immediate and unavoidable demands on household income and on clergy stipends.”

The CEECA is a group within the Faith Workers Branch of Unite the Union. It currently has 2071 members, of whom 1838 are clerics — including archdeacons, cathedral deans, and bishops.

Their submission refers to a briefing note from the Clergy Support Trust, published in February, which outlined the effect of the cost-of-living crisis, including a 51-per-cent increase in the trust’s grant spending to offset clergy hardship in 2022, compared with the previous year (News, 4 February 2022).

The briefing note also raised issues about maintenance of church housing, which the CEECA suggests “raises further questions around the total value and suitability of the remuneration package offered to stipendiary clergy”.

In February 2022, members of the General Synod took note of a report on clergy remuneration (News, 18 February 2022).

The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Richard Jackson, who chairs the remunerations committee, said at the time that, in a 2021 survey, 62 per cent of clergy had reported “living comfortably” or “doing all right”; 13 per cent were finding it “quite or very difficult to manage”; and 25 per cent were “just getting by”. This indicated, Bishop Jackson said, that stipends were still only at an adequate level for most.

Since that time, prices have risen sharply, particularly for food, drink, and utilities. The CEECA argues that a 9.5-per-cent increase in the National Minimum Stipend and the National Stipend Benchmark is necessary to “enable clergy to flourish in their ministry”, and to “reduce the incidence of chronic financial anxiety and hardship among clergy and their families”.

In April this year, stipends were increased by five per cent. The Office of National Statistics reports that the average regular pay growth in December 2022 to February 2023 was 6.9 per cent in the private sector, and 5.3 per cent in the public sector.

The CEECA argues that failure to keep pace with inflation since 2021 — with no increase in the stipend that year, and only a one-per-cent rise in 2022 — means that stipends have, in effect, suffered a 6.5-per-cent contraction relative to inflation over the past two years, and so a larger increase is now required.

If the CEECA’s proposals are accepted, the National Minimum Stipend would increase to £29,340 from April 2024, and the National Stipend Benchmark would rise to £31,355.

Minimum and benchmark stipends are decided by the Archbishops’ Council, who will meet in September to agree the level at which they should be set next year. Some dioceses pay above the current benchmark, while others slightly below it.

The CEECA submission “recognises the financial challenges which parishes and dioceses continue to face in the current economic climate”, and therefore suggests that the Church Commissioners make funds available through their reserves policy to help finance the increase, noting recent strong investment returns (News, 26 May).

In 2022, the Commissioners set aside £3 million for a hardship fund for clergy (News, 9 May 2022).

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