Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Association of English Cathedrals (AEC) (arts 186)

1. This submission is made by the Association of English Cathedrals (AEC) which represents the 42 Anglican cathedrals in England and two Royal Peculiars (Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor). The cathedrals range from those of international importance (such as St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey) and those in World Heritage Sites (Canterbury and Durham Cathedrals) to less well known cathedrals such as Blackburn, Bradford and Sheffield. The primary purpose of a cathedral is to be a place of Christian worship but it is also often the most historic and architecturally important building in its environment and of significance to the heritage and culture of the area it serves.


· Cathedrals are independent ecclesiastical corporations responsible for financing their activities from a variety of funding sources; grants from central Government provide a small proportion of total income, but are important.

· Of the two dedicated grant programmes, one, the Cathedrals Grant Scheme run by English Heritage, has already been withdrawn. The other, the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, is due to end on 31 March 2011 unless extended by the Government.

· Cathedrals have also received some Heritage Lottery Fund support, but only for projects involving new build and/ or interpretation and access.

· Spending cuts will result in delays in undertaking repair projects while additional fundraising takes place; this has consequences for skilled craftsmen and others involved in heritage conservation, and could result in the loss of craft skills for a generation or more.

· Fundraising will become more difficult as other heritage and arts organisations, possibly more directly affected by spending cuts, compete with cathedrals for such monies as are available. Grant making trusts are already suffering from reduced investment returns due to the current economic situation.

2. Each cathedral is responsible for its own finances. Cathedrals are ecclesiastical corporations and are independent from the central institutions of the Church of England and from dioceses. Cathedrals raise the funds necessary for them to fulfil their role as places of worship and pilgrimage (involving maintaining their buildings, supporting those in liturgical roles, clergy, musicians and lay staff, and enabling the cathedral complex to be open to all every day of the year) from a variety of sources. These include congregational giving, legacies, income from visitors, sums generated by trading activities, income from investments and property (for those cathedrals with such assets), monies donated in response to appeals and fundraising activity, and grants from the Church Commissioners. The Church Commissioners pay the stipends of three clergy at each cathedral and pay grants for employment costs of lay staff to cathedrals depending on need – those cathedrals with the lowest income from other sources receive most.

3. Central Government funding for cathedrals has taken two forms, both supporting fabric repair work. The first was English Heritage’s Cathedrals Grant Scheme which was introduced in 1991 and ended in 2009. This Scheme provided grants towards the cost of fabric repairs which had to be matched funded. The second is the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWGS) which gives cathedrals an amount equivalent to the irrecoverable VAT paid on repairs to buildings, bells, clocks, pews and organs and related professional fees. The Scheme was introduced in 2001, initially reimbursing VAT payments in excess of 5% on building repairs but being extended in 2004 to reimburse all VAT on building repairs and again in 2006 to include reimbursement of amounts paid in VAT on repairs to bells, pews, clocks and organs and, more significantly, to VAT amounts paid on related professional fees. The Scheme is due to end in March 2011. There is a campaign to persuade the Government to extend the Scheme to future years.

4. Some cathedrals have also been successful in obtaining funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This is not strictly central Government funding. It is important to note that cathedrals are specifically excluded from applying to the joint English Heritage/ HLF Repair Grants for Places of Worship Scheme, and can only apply for HLF funding for projects involving new buildings and/ or interpretation and access. The restriction was introduced at a time when English Heritage was running a dedicated grant scheme for cathedrals but has not been reviewed following the scheme’s abolition. We would welcome a review of the Repair Grants for Places of Worship criteria so that cathedrals are able to apply for funding under the scheme. HLF grants are competitive, and awards depend on the number and regional distribution of other projects applying as well as the project’s ‘appeal’. It has been suggested by Government ministers, among others, that the current Government’s intention to ensure more lottery funding is made available to HLF will compensate for the withdrawal of the LPWGS. This assertion displays a lack of understanding of the two grant programmes. Whilst we welcome more money going to HLF, the two streams are entirely separate and different in their aims. Increasing the money available to HLF does not mean that more funds will flow to cathedrals since HLF grants are awarded on a competitive basis to all areas of heritage whereas the reimbursement of VAT under the Scheme is automatic. LPWGS grants are available as of right, are relatively easy to apply for and follow the actual repair work undertaken.

5. Between 1991 and 2009, English Heritage made grant payments under the Cathedrals Scheme of £52m. Spending was concentrated in the earlier years, with only £1m a year being dispersed between 2006 and 2009. We estimate that the LPWGS has paid grants to cathedrals of approximately £1m each year since 2006, but smaller sums before then due to the reduced scope. In 2004, a survey into the economic and social impact of cathedrals showed that cathedrals were responsible for direct visitor related spend of £91m and a total spend of £150m, providing significant economic outcomes for their surrounding areas.

6. The loss of central Government funding through the English Heritage Cathedrals Grant Scheme has already been experienced by cathedrals. Although cathedrals can apply for English Heritage grants under its general grant programme, the programme is open to applications from all listed buildings in England and grants are awarded only to buildings in the most urgent need of support; most cathedrals are not falling down. Major repair programmes are being delayed to allow time for fundraising, in what is a difficult economic climate. This has implications for the skilled craftsmen who work on the buildings and all involved in heritage conservation.

7. If the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme is not renewed, or renewed with a reduced level of payment, either in the percentage of VAT reimbursed or in scope of activities attracting reimbursement, cathedrals anticipate further delays in repair programmes while additional funds are raised to pay the VAT bills.

8. Cathedrals do not receive any Government funding to assist with their role as tourist attractions. Whereas the DCMS awards grants to museums to enable free access for the public, no such grants are available to cathedrals. In York in 2005/6, the National Railway Museum received a grant of £5.66 million, equivalent to approximately £6.50 per visitor. York Minster, which received 895,000 visits in 2006, received no assistance and instead charged £5.50 for an adult visitor (£9.00 for a ‘see everything’ ticket), a charge necessitated by the cost of keeping the building open, safe and secure, and in good repair. (Please note that entry to York Minster is free at certain times on weekdays and on Sundays).

9. In January 2010, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, in its report on Promoting Participation with the Historic Environment stated ‘English cathedrals represent some of our most important architectural heritage yet many of them charge the public for entry. These buildings are expensive to look after and the Department and English Heritage should work together to find ways to fund their conservation so that they can be less reliant on charging for entry, which could deter people from visiting’. This recommendation was welcomed by cathedrals, but, in the current economic situation, we are aware that there will be no new funding for the foreseeable future.

10. Most cathedrals do not receive any financial assistance from local Government. Some local authorities pay or contribute to the costs of maintaining the environs of cathedrals, for example paying for lighting the churchyard at night, or maintaining the grass in open areas. Cathedrals and their local authorities work closely on tourism development and other local issues for the benefit of both cities and cathedrals, but this co-operation does not involve money.

11. Given the current low levels of financial assistance from central and local Government received by cathedrals, cathedrals are better placed than many heritage organisations which depend on grant funding to weather the proposed spending cuts. Our concern is that fundraising, on which cathedrals depend to fund major repair programmes, new buildings and new art commissions, will become even more difficult as more arts and heritage organisations compete for funds from a relatively small number of grant-making trusts and high net worth individuals. Current market conditions have reduced investment returns and the amounts available for distribution. Delays in carrying out repair programmes will result in a general deterioration in the condition of the fabric of England’s cathedrals, eventually to the level established by an English Heritage survey in 1990 which triggered the Cathedrals Grant Scheme and which resulted in a number of major repair programmes being started. It is better to undertake work in a timely way, to minimise costs and disruption and enable skilled craftsmen to be best deployed. Spending cuts will result in increasing hardship for those involved in heritage conservation and to a loss of craft skills from which it could take more than a generation to recover.

September 2010