Call for government help to tackle ‘large and rising’ church repair costs

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Church of England parish churches have a “significant and growing maintenance deficit”, which has prompted calls for government intervention.

The outstanding capital cost of ‘needed’ repairs to its 16,000 parish churches is estimated at £ 1 billion over the next five years, according to the Church of England (CoE).

“At best, parishes are currently raising and spending about half of that per year, so there remains a large and growing maintenance deficit on these beautiful and precious buildings,” according to Tory MP Andrew Selous, who as second Commissioner for Estates, speaks on behalf of the Council of Europe in the House of Commons.

Conservative MP Andrew Selous (Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament) (PA Media)

His comment came in response to a written parliamentary question from Alex Stafford, the Tory MP for Rother Valley.

Mr Stafford said he wanted the government to step in, warning that the cost of repairs will only rise if left unaddressed.

He told the PA News Agency: “I have a lot of churches in my constituency that are not in good repair.

“I think the UK is very blessed with beautiful churches and a great heritage and history and we have a duty to conserve and restore them and ensure that they are maintained.”

He said: “It is worrying that there is this huge gap between how much is needed each year – so £ 200million – and how much churches are actually investing in it.

“And this problem will increase. If we don’t get these reparations now, they will get worse and worse and the churches will get worse and worse and worse and worse.

“And I really believe that the government must protect them because they are the history of our country. They’ve been there, many of them, for hundreds of years, we have to keep that connection to the past. “

Conservative MP Alexander Stafford addresses the House of Commons (PA)

He added, “For me, it’s not necessarily about religion, it’s about our history. But I think the biggest problem we’ve had lately is Covid, which has completely squeezed the finances of churches because they haven’t been able to raise that money for repairs. They need and count more than ever on government support to intervene and close this deficit.

“I think the government should step in. And whether it’s funding everything, or at least part of it, or trying a new funding model to help churches do their repairs, because if we don’t no, it’s £ 1 billion now for the next five years, but it will be worse if you don’t make these repairs.

The CoE said that there are a number of local and national granting bodies that churches can apply to for funds, but that there will likely still be a large deficit.

He also said church commissioners have pledged to provide £ 930million over the period 2020-22, but that this money covers a range of expenses and there is no national funding specifically. for church maintenance and repairs, with CoE maintenance funding usually being collected locally.

A spokesperson said: “The Church of England, through its parishes and cathedrals, looks after around 16,000 church buildings – of which 12,500 are listed, 45% of all listed buildings. Grade I of England. They are a valuable resource for the whole nation and a presence in every community providing spiritual, pastoral and practical support – something that is more vital than ever.

“They are, of course, expensive to maintain and there is a gap between what local parishes, which are independent charities, are able to raise and the estimated cost of repairs, as has long been the case.

“A general estimate of the unpaid capital cost of necessary repairs to parish churches over the next five years is around £ 1 billion; an additional estimated £ 140 million is required by our 42 cathedrals.

They said the church is creating social and economic value, adding: “We are extremely grateful for this support, but the need persists and, along with other faith groups and heritage organizations, the Church of England is growing. engage with government departments in preparation for expenditure review.

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