Treasurer accuses diocese of greed

A CHURCH treasurer has accused the diocese of greedily demanding more and more money as some churches face dire financial situations struggling to pay crippling bills.

By John Howard

Exclusive by John Howard, Religious Affairs Correspondent

A CHURCH treasurer has accused the diocese of greedily demanding more and more money as some churches face dire financial situations struggling to pay crippling bills.

Brian Way also believes that some middle-management ecclesiastical posts could now be an extravagance at the diocese, which worshippers can ill afford.

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Mr Way, who worked for the MOD in a senior management role and has experience administering very large budgets, said he does not want to be destructive.

But he has become frustrated with the Church authorities - who he has written to in the past with his concerns.

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Mr Way, treasurer at St Margaret's in Syleham, said: “We have met the quota asked of us in full over the past four years when I have been treasurer and, I believe, back into the mists of time.

“But it has not been easy. Increases in the amount asked over the past four years have been equivalent to a rise of 28.5%.

“We have been obliged by the rise in money asked by the diocese to double our income from voluntary giving and to increase our income from fundraising events by about 55%.

“Sadly, all the extra income generated has either gone to the diocese or has been consumed by essential repairs to the fabric of the church.''

Mr Way said that in excess of £19,000 has been spent on repairs in the past two years, £6,300 of which was paid for by grants. More repair work is still needed.

He added: “It is hugely frustrating for the parochial church council to have made the effort to raise these additional funds and then to have the greedy hand of the diocese stretched out demanding ever more.

“The diocese continues to set budgets which are rooted in ambition rather than realism.

“Present extravagances like the communications director, tourism officer, and Canon Jim Pendorf's post (parish resources adviser), might look rather different when the diocese is obliged to set budgets which reflect a prudent assessment of the money which will be available from the parishes, rather than the money they would like to have from that source.

“Cutting three senior posts like that could save £100,000. There needs to be a real grip on costs.''

Mr Way, 70, said many people are extremely zealous and will not hear a word against the Church, but he is beginning to see himself as a “tax collector for the diocese.''

Nick Clarke, the diocese's communications director, insisted the diocese is not acting through greed, but only seeking to do what parish representatives have asked them to do.

He said they have the smallest number of diocesan staff in the eastern region, and the tourism officer is a retired vicar, who receives an honorarium - a sum considerably lower than a regular salary.

Mr Clarke added: “Communications stretches across absolutely everything the Church does and many commercial operations with a turn over of £6.5million would have many more people worrying about communications.

“Church buildings are a treasure and a millstone and the local parishes are responsible for maintaining them.

“There are many additional sources of revenue, but we recognize they are a tremendous drain on parishes, with very many small dedicated congregations looking after Suffolk churches.

“At Syleham there are 20 worshippers on roll, and church-goers give an average of £7.70 a week.

“A survey of 27 parishes in the diocese found £5.81 is the average, so Syleham are doing fabulously.''

Editorial comment - Page 30

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