Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Trevor Cooper

SCOPE

  1.  My expertise lies in facts and figures relating to Church of England churches, which provide the bulk of listed places of worship. However, a good deal of what I say below will apply to places of worship of other Christian denominations, and to other faiths, and will be relevant outside England.

  2.  Please note that in this submission I do not deal with cathedrals, and greater churches. Their issues and needs are rather different from most churches and chapels.

  3.  I have responded to just two of the questions posed by the Committee:

    —  Priorities for the forthcoming Heritage White Paper.

    —  Funding.

  4.  Much of the information in this submission is drawn from my book, How do we keep our parish churches? A copy is enclosed, and further copies can be provided to the committee if required.

What the Department for Culture, Media & Sport should identify as priorities in the forthcoming Heritage White Paper

INTRODUCTION

  5.  The White Paper provides an opportunity to devise a new partnership with those responsible for listed places of worship. There are a large number of such buildings, and they are used and valued by a high proportion of the population, and provide an important cultural and social resource. But the buildings are the responsibility of a tiny number of volunteers, who are coming under increasing pressure.

  6.  There is clear market failure, and present measures for dealing with this have emerged piecemeal. I do not believe that current arrangements are entirely sustainable over the longer term, and this is a good time to consider what form of partnership is needed with the volunteers who care for these buildings. This is not just about money.

  7.  In what follows, I look at:

    —  the care of listed churches;

    —  their cultural and social role;

    —  the emerging pressures on voluntary carers.

  8.  I conclude with possible ways in which effective partnership might be developed.

CARE OF LISTED CHURCHES

Numbers

  9.  Whereas English Heritage and the National Trust have between them considerably fewer than one thousand buildings, there are at least 14,000 listed places of worship in England (Table 1), mostly churches and chapels. Almost one half (45%) of England's entire stock of Grade I listed buildings are Church of England churches.

Table 1

NUMBER OF LISTED PLACES OF WORSHIP IN ENGLAND


All grades
Grade

I
II*
II
Church of England
12,200
4,200
4,200
3,800
Roman Catholic
622
41
102
479
Methodist
537
3
36
498
Baptist
c 350
?
?
?
Congregational
69
?
?
?
Other nonconformist
?? 500
?
?
?
Synagogues†28
1
11
16
Mosques†
1
0
1
0
Total
? 14,500

† purpose-built
Sources: personal communication from denominations, except Church of England (Cooper, Parish Churches); Baptist, estimate from Newman report on Ecclesiastical Exemption; Synagogues, website of Jewish Heritage UK; mosques, personal communication, English Heritage.


Volunteers

  10. Churches and chapels are different from most listed buildings in that they are looked after by volunteers, not by owners having a beneficial interest. For most of the volunteers, time and money is spent for love of the building, or enthusiasm for the work which takes place there. As we shall see, the building is the base for a great deal of community work. It follows that any government policy for listed church buildings which regards them purely as heritage, and simply a matter for the DCMS, misses one of the most important aspects—the volunteers who care for them.

  11. These volunteers form a rather small percentage of the population. In the case of Church of England churches, the 12,000 listed buildings are looked after by about 3% of the adult population (the so-called "electoral roll" of supporters).

Table 2

ADULT AVERAGE SUNDAY ATTENDANCE AT CHURCH OF ENGLAND PARISHES (2001) (12,951 PARISHES; TOTAL ADULT ATTENDANCE = 868,000) ALL FIGURE ROUNDED


Adult average Sunday attendance
Parishes with this attendance

%
Number
1-10
6
780
11-20
19
2,500
21-30
14
1,800
31-50
17
2,200
51-100
24
3,100
over 100
20
2,600

Total
100%
=12,951
12,951


  Note: some parishes have more than one church, so the number of parishes is fewer than the number of churches (= about 16,200).

  Source: Archbishops' Council, Church of England.

  12. There are some very tiny voluntary groups (congregations) looking after churches. This is not surprising. The two thousand smallest rural villages and hamlets have an average population of about 200 people each, so that 12% of Church of England church buildings are today in communities together containing less than 1% of the population. As a result, roughly 800 parishes (6%) have ten adults or fewer worshipping on a Sunday (see Table 2). As the table also makes clear, at the other end of the scale, some churches are thriving. Note: some parishes have more than one church building, so the number of parishes (12,951) is smaller than the total number of churches (about 16,200).

  13. Some of the most attractive and important church buildings lie in areas of low population, and thus have the least viable congregations.

Cost of repairs

  14. The Church of England is widely regarded as being immensely rich,[22] perhaps even beyond the dreams of avarice, and this bedevils discussion about the funding of church buildings. The Church does have a substantial endowment (though, to put it in context, it is five times smaller than that of Harvard University), and a generation ago the income from this paid a large proportion of the clergy salaries. But the majority is now put aside to pay pensions, and ordinary churches receive less than 50 pence per churchgoer per week. Almost all of that goes to help with the costs of clergy and other workers, with the focus on more needy areas. In fact, rather than rolling in money, many dioceses (which act as independent units) are in some financial difficulty.

  15. The cost of repairs to Church of England church buildings is running at about £100 million per year (2003), and rising. Something under a third of this comes from public funds: English Heritage and HLF grants (available only for large, "emergency" repairs), VAT relief and Landfill tax. The private charitable sector provides other grants, and the remainder, approximately £65 million, comes from the pockets of the congregations looking after the buildings, and their fund raising—an average of £5,000 per church per year raised by their own efforts.

Table 3

SPENDING ON MAJOR REPAIRS TO CHURCH OF ENGLAND CHURCH BUILDINGS, BY AMOUNT OF SPEND (2001) TOTAL REPAIR SPEND WAS £86.4 million


Amount spent
Parishes with this repair spend

%
Number
zero
42
5,440
up to £1k
91,170
£1k-£5k
24
3,100
£5k-£10k
10
1,300
£10k-£20k
8
1,040
£20k-£50k
5
650
More than £50k
2
260

100% = 12,951
12,951


  Note: recent years have seen higher total spend.

  Source: Archbishops' Council, Church of England.

  16. But the average is misleading (Table 3). Most churches spend rather less than the average per year. For example, approximately one half (42%) of Church of England parishes spend nothing on repairs in any particular year (based on 2001 figures). The same number (43%) spend less than £10k on repairs in a year. In a given year, only about 2% of parishes have to spend more than £50k.

  17. Thus an individual church might reasonably expect to go for twenty years spending an average of £2,500 per year, and fifty years without having to fund a repair bill of more than £50k.

  18. This pattern of occasional, unpredictable, very expensive events is difficult for small voluntary organizations to handle: should they hire a youth worker today, or put aside money for unknown future repairs which may never be needed?

Table 4

PROPORTION OF PARISHES WITH VARIOUS RANGES OF INCOME (2001)


Income*
Parishes with this income

%
Number
£0—£2k
3
390
£2k—£5k
9
1,150
£5k—£10k
17
2,180
£10k—£20k
22
2,820
£20k—£30k
13
1,670
over £30k
37
4,740

100% = 12,951 parishes
12,951

*unrestricted ordinary income.


  Source: Archbishops' Council, Church of England

  19. As expected, parish incomes differ enormously. More than 1,500 parishes have income of less than £5,000 per annum (see Table 4). For these voluntary groups, and for many of the others, paying large repair bills from income is not possible. Furthermore, the smaller the congregation, the harder it is for them to organise themselves for fund-raising and grant applications.

  20. In summary, listed Church of England churches are found everywhere, and are widely accessible. Their repair is partly funded by the State, but two-thirds of the cost comes directly from volunteers and from their fund-raising. They make up only about 3% of the adult population. Some of the voluntary groups (congregations) are tiny, and have small incomes. Repair bills are lumpy, and organising to deal with large repairs may stretch smaller groups to the limit.

  21. The next section explores what value the wider community obtains from these buildings.

CULTURAL AND SOCIAL ROLE OF CHURCHES

Value placed on places of worship by public

  22. Although supported by so few, the enjoyment of these buildings, and the sense of place which they create is widely valued. In a survey carried out in October 2003, almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) said they would be concerned if their local church/chapel were no longer there Almost as many (59%) saw the building as a local landmark, or historic place (53%).1 These high figures confirm the importance of places of worship in creating a valued local sense of place.

Use by wider population

  23. The buildings are used by most of the population. A survey conducted in October 2003 (see Table 5) showed that 89% had visited a church/place of worship during the year, and the figure was almost as high (80%) for those who claimed "no religion". In contrast, the rather smaller figure of 51% had visited a cinema in that year. There was a range of purposes for the visit to a place of worship—rites of passage were the most common—but it was also noticeable that for 24% of city dwellers, they simply sought a quiet space.

Table 5

ADULTS VISITING VARIOUS PLACES DURING PREVIOUS YEAR


Place
Percentage of adults

Church/place of worship (2003)
89%
Cinema (2002)
51%
Museum or gallery (2002)
43%
Football match (2000)
17%


  Sources: ORB survey carried out on behalf of English Heritage/Church of England, October 2003; Mori poll reported in Heritage Monitor 2003; Mori poll commissioned by English Heritage, May—June 2000, available on Mori website

Tourism

  24. Listed churches and chapels also play an important—though not fully understood—part in the tourist economy. The number of church visitors is very large, lying somewhere between 10 million and 50 million per year. Indeed, it is possible that the number of visits to parish churches may be greater than the combined sum of visits to Cathedrals and all the buildings owned by English Heritage, the National Trust and the Historic Houses Association (see Table 6). The difference is that ordinary churches have no turnstiles, and cannot charge.[23]

Table 6

NUMBER OF VISITS TO VARIOUS PROPERTY TYPES (2004-05, except where stated) ALL FIGURES ROUNDED. VISITOR NUMBERS FOR PARISH CHURCHES ESTIMATED


Number of properties (rounded)
Number of visitors per annum (million)
Annual cost of non-routine repairs £m

Church of England listed parish
churches
12,000
10-50
100
Historic Houses (privately owned)
(2001-02)
*700
11
?
English Heritage pay-for-entry sites
400
5
**16
National Trust pay-for-entry buildings and gardens
300
13
38
Cathedrals
40
10
11

* About one half open regularly to the public; the remainder provide some form of public access

**Based on speech by Tim Reeve, Property Development and Operations Director, 28 June 2005. It is difficult to be sure which cost line in the accounts refers to major repairs.


    Sources:  Churches, Cathedrals, and Historic Houses: Cooper, Parish Churches and Archbishops' Council, Church of England; English Heritage and the National Trust, annual accounts.

  25. The majority (55% on average) of Church of England churches are freely open to visitors, to enjoy free of charge, despite the risk of vandalism. Hereford, for example, a deeply rural county, manages an astonishing 84% of open churches.2 And there is untapped potential here: we now know that a concerted attempt to open places of worship of all types, make them welcoming, and help visitors find them, can increase throughput, and helps bring communities together (see Fig 1. above for two examples). But the churches retain rather little financial benefit from such efforts, and they can be costly in volunteer time.

  26. It is well known that the National Trust relies on endowments to help support its properties. English Heritage makes an operational deficit on its properties, running at about £5 million per year, funded by the taxpayer. (I am not clear whether this deficit includes the cost of major repairs; I suspect not.) It is planning to reduce this deficit to zero over the next few years, by boosting membership, increasing income from turnstiles, and investing some £21 million of taxpayers' money in improving the way their estate is presented, and the quality of facilities they provide for visitors.3

  27. This demonstrates the costs (or public value) and difficulty of running historic buildings for the benefit of visitors, even when supported by a membership structure, staff to collect admission fees, and with guaranteed capital funding. None of these factors apply to listed places of worship: volunteers look after the buildings, giving free entry to anyone, with no endowment, no guaranteed capital funding (though grants are sometimes available), and no admission fees.

  28. There is a further consideration. Even tourists who do not visit churches probably enjoy the landscape value of well-kept buildings in public use. As far as I know, the value of this has not been quantified: it may be significant.

Cultural artefacts

  29. It goes almost without saying that not only are listed churches themselves often beautiful, but they contain an astonishing array of cultural artefacts—a national repository of heritage, far more extensive than any of our great museums. For example, there are an estimated 8,000 medieval stained glass windows in our churches. The V&A has about 100. (And up and down the country, congregations are paying to protect to their stained glass windows against growing vandalism.)

  30. The V&A has 15 pieces by John Flaxman, one of England's most important and accessible sculptors. That is a fine collection. But there are twelve times as many items (190) by this sculptor in churches—monuments and busts in their original settings, close to where the widow grieved or the parents mourned—and personal observation suggests that such tombs and memorials have a lasting fascination to visitors of all ages.4

  31. Who looks after all this? Insuring, restoring, repairing and maintaining—even dusting!—this cultural heritage all falls on the individual voluntary groups.

Cultural activity

  32. Churches are a home for cultural activity. More than eight million people say they have been to a concert or similar event in a church or other place of worship in the past year, about the same as attendance at West End theatres by UK residents. One half (49%) of rural Church of England church buildings (about 4,000) host such events (note that most rural Anglican churches do not have church halls). One in eight rural churches (12%) are used for art exhibitions.5

  33. There is a problem with kitchens, with heating, and with toilets. Congregations are adding these facilities to church buildings (often at their own expense), but it is a slow process: at the current rate, it will be the end of this century before all rural churches have toilets (based on a 1994 survey). We know that adding simple facilities to rural church buildings—toilets, kitchens, meeting areas—can make a big difference to community engagement. And we also know that this is considerably cheaper than building a village hall. With around a quarter of villages of less than 3,000 inhabitants lacking a village hall, there is plenty of opportunity.6

Regeneration

  34. Some churches, including listed churches, are converting their premises in active support of local regeneration. In its simplest form, an over-sized building can be part let to a secular tenant, turning a historic building into an income-generating asset. There are a large number of urban examples, though we lack the research to know exactly how many, or what works best. There are also some intriguing examples in rural areas—Winforton, Herefordshire, for example, where the secular Parish Council and church Parochial Council have together co-funded the re-flooring and opening up of the nave of the church building to provide a community space: worship is carried out in the chancel.

Home for community service

  35. Many churches see community service as a core part of their mission. In the past few years an explosion of research has confirmed what many of us suspected—that faith groups are far and away the largest assemblage of social volunteers in the country.

  36. I estimate that the contribution to community well-being from Christian faith groups alone is probably more than £750 million per year in equivalent wage-costs (if one feels like measuring concern for others in financial terms), much of which benefits those who are not members of the congregations concerned.7

  37. Buildings are an integral part of this activity, but it is not clear the extent to which historic buildings benefit from the available funding streams. And there is considerable anecdotal evidence that some faith groups find themselves disadvantaged in applying for social funding.

  38. To summarise: there is good evidence that church buildings are used and valued by the wider community, that they have very significant cultural value, that they provide a home base for a very large group of social volunteers, and that they can be valuable centres of social regeneration.

  39. If everything is going so well, what is the problem? The next section looks at pressures on the volunteers who are at the centre of all this activity.

EMERGING PRESSURES ON VOLUNTARY CARERS

Too many churches in the wrong places

  40. The Church of England continues to provide church buildings for growing centres of population, and in the last 30 years approximately 530 new churches have been built. Even so, the location of approximately two-thirds of Church of England churches was decided before the Industrial Revolution. It is not surprising that many churches and chapels today are not close to centres of population. Furthermore, our Victorian forefathers became over-enthusiastic in church building, and added to the stock.

  41. As a result, the country is over-churched, with many churches in the wrong place. Based on one sample, it may be that as little as 15% of church seating is used on Sundays in rural areas.8 But with Church of England listed buildings, the option taken by other networks—such as pubs, garages, banks, Post Offices, schools and A&E units—of simply closing under-used distribution outlets, is not easily available.

  42. England is not alone in finding that its churches are not in the right place. In America, thousands of church buildings are under serious threat due to population movements and the use of the car to travel to larger centres on Sunday.

  43. Western European countries also have this problem, and the additional one of declining church attendance. But in many of these countries the State has taken an explicit and formal role in the care of historic church buildings, or in collecting money for them, allowing the church to concentrate on its religious and social mission. The United Kingdom is rather unusual amongst Western European nations in the lack of formal state responsibility for historic churches.

Trends in attendance

  44. For most English denominations, there has been a slow drift downward in attendance at church on Sundays, averaging something over 1% per annum over the past few decades for adults in the Church of England. Attendance at Sunday worship is not the same as support for the building, but any drop in numbers does add to the financial burden on those remaining. In the Church of England, this has coincided with a pensions crisis, which has seen central subsidy of the clergy costs drop enormously, and giving by churchgoers rise considerably faster than inflation.

  45. Understandably, many congregations are focusing their attention on reversing the trend in attendance, and with this increased emphasis on the mission of the church, and increasing financial pressures, are beginning to question the cost and effort attached to their role as preservers of society's cultural heritage.

  46. Of course, growing congregations face a different problem—how to extend and convert their listed buildings to handle increasing numbers, without spoiling the building.

Pressures on time and money

  47. Churches face the same burdens and costs as other organisations, together with those that are particular to the maintenance of historic buildings. For voluntary groups, however, reliant on enthusiasm, and often short of time and money, these pressures can be especially discouraging. There is a definite sense that these demands have increased in recent years (Table 7).

Table 7

RECENT OR INCREASING PRESSURES ON TIME AND MONEY OF VOLUNTARY GROUPS LOOKING AFTER AND USING LISTED PLACES OF WORSHIP
Disability Discrimination Act
Child Protection Act
Craft skills shortage / heritage requirements
Insurance (arson, vandalism)Statements of significance (possible future requirement)
Licensing lawsHealth and safety, including working at heights (light bulbs, gutters)
Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations
Property Risk Assessments
Electrical services inspection Individual registration as charities (possible future requirement)


Market failure

  48. Many of the financial difficulties faced by churches can be categorised as market failure. For example, although many people value their local church building even if they don't regularly attend, there is no easy mechanism to convert this into financial support. Parish Councils are allowed to help with church repairs, but seem not to (it may be that government could usefully take a lead here).

  49. Similarly, although many small businesses gain from visitors to churches, and tourists who value the environmental impact of the church, churches capture very little of this value.

THE WHITE PAPER AND EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIP

  50. I have tried to outline the cultural and social importance of listed church buildings. and have emphasised the fact that they are looked after by a rather small number of volunteers (3% of the population in the case of Church of England churches). In a first attempt to look at the whole picture in financial terms (Table 8), it would seem that the public get good value. In addition, we must not overlook, in the Secretary of State's words, the way these buildings can "inspire and engage us with their beauty, truth, or visceral reality".9

Table 8

PUBLIC VALUE FROM CHURCHES AND CHAPELS

Indicative only. Some figures estimated on inadequate information.

Don't quote without health warning!

Units: £m


£m
Note

Paid for from public purse
Public repair grants per annum to listed places of worship
30
1
Provided by church volunteers
Community work provided by listed church and chapel members (measured at minimum wage value)
750
2
Expenditure on repairs
60++
3
Value of volunteer time in administration, minor works, and making building accessible, plus free professional advice
30
4
Care, insurance, maintenance of cultural artefacts in listed buildings
??
Cultural and social value arising, directly and indirectly
Direct: Value of community work provided by listed church and chapel members
750
2
Indirect: Value of local trade generated by those who have visited a church or chapel
75
5
Indirect: Value to visitors and tourists of free entry
30
5
Indirect: Value of listed building in creating `sense of place' to those living in the area
??
Indirect: Value of well-kept listed buildings in encouraging tourism through attractive environment
??
Direct: Community value attached to use for exhibitions, concerts, etc
??
6
Direct: Availability for use for rites of passage, contemplation etc
??
6


    Notes

1.  HLF, EH, VAT refund. Varies each year.

2.  See Cooper, Parish Churches, p 43.

3.  Figure for 2003 for all Church of England churches only. Excludes other denominations (figure not available), so understated.

4.  Assuming 32,000 churchwardens at 3 hours per week each, at minimum wage, plus 1000 individuals serving as advisors free of charge (see A Future for Church Buildings, CHF, 2003).

5.  Say 30 million visitors (see discussion above), valuing their visit at £1 each (approximately one quarter typical cathedral entry fee). Assume £2.50 expenditure per visitor on local businesses (approximately one quarter of typical day tourism expenditure).

6.  Value will depends if venue free of charge or subsidised (often is).

  51. These voluntary groups are now under increasing pressure. No-one can forecast what will happen next, but in my view, in the medium term these pressures will probably lead to a significant increase in the number of listed church buildings lost to the public. It would therefore be sensible to use the White Paper to consider options for developing partnership. It would be a great pity to have to revisit the whole subject again in 10 years time, when matters might have developed a greater urgency.

  52. Such a partnership might have a number of themes, such as:

    —  Cross-departmental government structures which take into account the symbiosis between volunteer and listed building.

    —  Enthusiasm for the role and value of listed church buildings in service delivery in urban and rural communities, with the spreading of best practice.

    —  A positive approach to, and engagement with, the volunteer infrastructure.

    —  Encouragement of local support, and devising of means by which it can be channelled; and similarly for national support.

    —  "Church-proofing" of policies affecting voluntary work in the community, and the social infrastructure, especially of smaller communities.

    —  Fair access to social funds.

    —  A settled view as to the cultural importance of the buildings, and the enrichment this brings, and cooperation with the relevant voluntary groups in furthering access.

    —  Research into, and central enthusiasm for church tourism.

    —  Imaginative ownership and management structures for listed church buildings (for example, leasing back to congregations, or community ownership), probably on a mix and match basis.

    —  A coherent policy for the role of listed buildings no longer required for routine worship.

  53. Some of the above are reflected in the activities of the Inspired! campaign to be launched by English Heritage later this year. But they need a robust fixity of purpose, and to be embedded in "business as usual". Some need legislation. Some need funding. Some need political will and leadership, to ensure co-operation between stakeholders who have overlapping, but not identical, objectives. None of this is trivial, but I would argue that it is worthwhile

  54. The final need is for robust funding. I note that the Church of England suggest that 50% of repair costs should be publicly funded. I would hope there is some sympathy for that view. But I would also hope that the White Paper would be more imaginative than simply bumping up the current levels of financial support for large emergency repairs. There are other opportunities:

    —  cyclic, routine maintenance is increasingly expensive, and thus difficult for cash-strapped congregations—should this be directly supported?

    —  is there room for a government-backed savings / soft-loan scheme for repairs?

    —  might it be possible to devise a risk-pooled `insurance' scheme for repairs?

    —  should public funds be set aside for improving the facilities of listed places of worship, especially in rural areas where the church is often the only remaining public building (the shop, the Post Office, the pub all having closed)?

    —  what help can be given to the smaller voluntary groups in fund-raising and project management, or creating a buildings strategy?

    —  what assistance should be given to small repairs (the majority)?

    —  is there a case for an endowed UK Churches Trust, to provide stability and political independence over the longer-term, and perhaps provide a focus for individual support?

  55. In short, the White Paper presents a marvellous opportunity for fresh thinking in the development of a long-term partnership with those responsible for listed places of worship.

Funding, with particular reference to the adequacy of the budget for (a) English Heritage and for (b) museums and galleries, (c) the impact of the London 2012 Olympics on lottery funding for heritage projects, and (d) forthcoming decisions on the sharing of funds from Lottery sources between good causes

ENGLISH HERITAGE

  56. It is difficult for an outsider to get a handle on the funding of English Heritage. Its published accounts, though models of clarity, simply do not give enough detail to understand the grant-in-aid being provided by DCMS each year.

  57. The graph below represents my best estimate of the core grant-in-aid from DCMS over the past decade. I have ignored capital grants, as it seems likely from published sources that these are used either for internal purposes or to improve English Heritage's own sites, neither of which are directly helpful to its clients.


  58. The graph allows for inflation, and shows a sharp drop in funding over the period. If my figures are right, they show an unfortunate reduction in the State's willingness to fund heritage. This is worrying, not least in the light of English Heritage's view that the Heritage Protection Review has significant resource implications.

  59. English Heritage's funding agreement 2003-04 to 2005-06 (revised February 2005) states that it might seek grants from other government departments, namely ODPM and DEFRA, given their interest in its work. English Heritage's published accounts do not make it clear whether these other departments have provided any funds. It would be interesting to know.

  60. English Heritage has recently been reorganising itself to meet new challenges, but there can be little doubt that the cut in funds has led to an unwanted reduction in staffing levels. I have found only one public pronouncement on this, the comment that 11% of posts in place in the year 2000 were removed by mid-2005.10 But staff numbers, and presumably staff posts increased between 2000 and 2004 by about 12%. So it could be that as many as 23% of posts (11% + 12%) have recently been lost.[24] I doubt it is this many, but some observers have suggested that the organisation has had to cut into muscle as well as fat

  61. As far as I can tell from published data, English Heritage uses a single grant-in-aid sum both to run its operations and make its grants to outside bodies. Any pressure on its overall grant-in-aid budget has therefore to be shared in some way between operations and grants.

  62. This pressure on grants is well demonstrated by the graph below, which shows grants for repairs to listed places of worship (but not cathedrals) over the past 10 years, allowing for inflation. Given that building costs rise considerably faster than inflation, the actual usefulness of the English Heritage grant to places of worship has declined much faster than shown here.


  63. Each one million pound reduction could mean (on average) a dozen fewer places of worship receiving grants in that year.[25] Many churches will quite often simply not go ahead if a grant is not available. Thus the reduction from the high point of 1995 might mean that some 750 places of worship have not carried out urgent, expensive, repairs which they otherwise would.

OTHER FUNDING OF LISTED PLACES OF WORSHIP

  64. Public money is available to listed places of worship from the Aggregates Levy (a few million pounds per year), English Heritage (discussed above), and two other sources: the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Listed Places of Worship scheme, discussed in the following paragraphs.

  65. The Heritage Lottery Fund provides substantial grants (of the order of £15 million to £20 million in recent years) for the repair of listed churches, in a scheme jointly administered with English Heritage. The scheme is oversubscribed by a factor of approximately two to one. It typically grants 65% of the cost of repairs, leaving the remainder for the congregation to find. As I have said elsewhere, this joint scheme "may be regarded as the `superpower' in the sector . . . Any withdrawal would have a major impact." Until the future of the Heritage Lottery Fund is settled, there will be real concern about the future of this crucial source of support.

  66. In addition, support is provided by the Listed Places of Worship Scheme. This enables VAT paid on repairs to be reclaimed. After a slow start, it has been a considerable success, with more than £30 million being reclaimed since launch in 2001. It has been extended until 2008, and a similar scheme for memorials has recently been introduced (including their construction as well as repair). A particular feature of the scheme is the fact that it applies to relatively small repairs, unlike the English Heritage/Heritage Lottery Fund joint scheme. It is to be hoped the scheme can continue, or that negotiation with our European partners allows the applicable VAT rate to be reduced.

FUNDING OF CHURCHES CONSERVATION TRUST

  67. The Churches Conservation Trust is a statutory body, set up in 1969. In its care are Church of England church buildings which are no longer required for worship, but which are regarded as too important to demolish, and for which no suitable use can be found. The Trust now looks after more than 330 churches. The churches are used for a wide variety of cultural, social and educational activities, and, in some cases, as a centre for regeneration.

  68. The Trust is primarily funded by a grant, agreed every three years. Of this, the government pays 70% via the DCMS. The other 30% is paid for by the Church Commissioners of the Church of England.

  69. For the three years beginning 2003, the grant was set at £4.2 million per annum. This is a reduction of 5% in real terms from the previous three years, at the instigation of DCMS (the Church of England was prepared to raise the grant). My assessment, based on published data, is that it will now be difficult for the Trust to accept new churches without reducing the ongoing maintenance of its current portfolio of fine buildings.11 It is a pity that the future of these important buildings should have been put at risk in this way.

SUMMARY

  70. I hope I have demonstrated that "investing in the preservation and presentation of these places is an investment in our national identity, an investment in our future, and an investment in social personal capital", as much for listed places of worship as for Stonehenge, Fountains Abbey or Hadrian's Wall.12

NOTES

  1 Cooper, How do we Keep our Parish Churches, Tables 6.3, 4.1.

  2 The website www.digiatlas.net collects church opening figures, and they are available for about twenty counties.

  3 Tim Reeve, English Heritage Property Development & Operations Director, Speech 28 June 2005.

  4 Martin Harrison, "Stained glass" in Change and Decay (eds. Marcus Binney and Peter Burman), 1977; Paul Williamson, Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2003; Rupert Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660-1851, second edition, n.d.; Diane Bilbey, British Sculpture 1470 to 2000, 2002.

  5 Cooper, Parish Churches, page 37, Table 4.2.

  6 Cooper, Parish Churches, page 39, Table 4.4. For the impact of new facilities, see the report by Susan Rowe, `A review of the rural churches in community service programme', 2004.

  7 Cooper, Parish Churches, 41.

  8 Cooper, Parish Churches, 48.

  9 DCMS, Better Places to Live, 2005.

  10 Simon Thurley, Chief Executive English Heritage, Speech 28 June 2005.

  11 Cooper, Parish Churches, 31.

  12 Quotation from DCMS, Better Places to Live, 2005, referring to the three major sites mentioned.










22   An alternative myth is that it lost all its money in speculative property investments. Some people believe both. Back

23   Because it is difficult to count visitors to all but the largest churches, the numbers are estimates. We badly need further research on visitor numbers to churches and chapels, the value placed on the experience by visitors, and the economic contribution this makes to local communities: attempts have been made, but they lack the necessary rigour to make a robust economic case. Back

24   This analysis allows for the fact that the year 2000 was the date at which English Heritage staff numbers first started including those of the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments, which was later to merge with English Heritage. Back

25   Or a reduction in average grant size. The statistics available to me do not make it clear which of the two has occurred. Back


 
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