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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Anglican cathedrals face cash crisis
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¬†A cash crisis, caused by an acute drop in tourists visiting the UK, may soon force many of England's 42 Anglican cathedrals to bolt their doors to the public for part of the week as they lay off staff the Observer reported yesterday. The Association of English Cathedrals plans to hold urgent talks on 22 January with the Church Commissioners - the financial arm of the Church of England to discuss the situation. The association says a decline in the levels of contributions from visitors, coupled with a sharp rise in health and safety costs over the past couple of years, has created a multimillion-pound debt. The Very Rev Gordon Mursell, Dean of Birmingham and secretary of the association, said: "I don't know one cathedral that isn't facing a critical financial situation." "Anglican English cathedrals are virtually required by statute to be open all the time - it's one of the things that makes them unique and helps them play a part in the wider community - but we can see a situation where that will have to change," Mursell added. Last week Peter Luff, Conservative MP for Mid-Worcestershire and chairman of Worcester cathedral council, warned Parliament: "A crisis is looming in cathedral funding." Luff said that "the triple responsibility of maintaining a living heritage of music and liturgy in cathedrals, maintaining the built heritage ... and offering witness to the Christian faith is proving an intolerable burden for many cathedrals." Bradford cathedral is estimated to be more than £4million in the red, while around 20 others are said to be running up debts. David Burrows, the administrator of Chester cathedral who also sits on the association committee, said that even those cathedrals that were not in apparent financial trouble were still struggling. "I would say that over the past two to three years around half of English cathedrals have been running a deficit. But this only tells part of the story. Quite often work that needs doing just doesn't get done, as a cathedral will look to balance its budget. Most cathedrals have what is called a 'maintenance overhang' as a result," Burrows said. It is estimated that the average Anglican cathedral costs about £850,000 a year to service and maintain, of which about £300,000 comes from entrance contributions (many cathedrals now have an entrance charge out of service hours) and a further £200,000 from commercial activities like gift shops and restaurants. About £200,000 comes from property and investment, with the remainder made up of various grants. Visitor numbers have plunged as American and, to a lesser extent, Japanese tourists have stayed away from the UK because of concerns about terrorism. The spread of foot and mouth disease is also thought to have played a part, while poor returns on the stock and property markets have hit a number of cathedrals. A Catholic Church spokesperson said: "Tourism does not affect our finances that much. While our big churches and cathedrals are open every day, we can't and don't charge entrance fees. Similarly, gift shops in our cathedrals are fairly ancillary to revenue." Sources: Ekklesia/CCS
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