UK

Cathedral closures possible amid cash crisis, Church of England says

Peterborough Cathedral
Image caption Peterborough Cathedral is among those to have faced financial pressures

Some cathedrals are facing possible closure because of problems with finance and management, according to the Church of England.

A report said their financial independence posed "serious risks to the reputation of the entire Church".

Despite increasing numbers of visitors, some cathedrals have been hit by serious financial problems.

A new working group will consider whether or not cathedrals should continue to raise their own funds.

Each of England's 42 Anglican diocesan cathedrals are run by a dean and chapter, independently of their diocese or the Church of England.

The group's vice-chairwoman, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, said: "As cathedrals have developed their ambition, they have found that their ways of doing things, which include their raising of revenue, haven't necessarily met what they need in terms of their ambition."

Visitation

The review follows a "visitation" - or formal investigation - of the management of Peterborough Cathedral by its bishop, the Right Reverend Donald Allister.

The cathedral resorted to a loan from the Church Commissioners - the Church of England's central financial arm - following a cash-flow crisis.

Dr Allister published a report in January which said: "The high degree of independence currently enjoyed by cathedrals poses serious risks to the reputation of the whole Church, and thus to our effectiveness in mission.

"A closer working relationship of cathedrals with their bishop and diocese would be of benefit to all, both practically and spiritually."

Tourism, government grants and lottery money are major sources of revenue for cathedrals.

'Honeypots'

The Very Rev Faull, who is the dean of York Minster, said cathedrals that attracted a lot of tourists were better off.

"Those that are not those honeypots realise that they have a more limited repertoire in terms of encouraging people to support financially."

She said cathedrals that asked for a voluntary donation rather than an admission fee were worse off, but rejected the idea of a compulsory entrance fee at all cathedrals, calling it "simply not feasible for all cathedrals".

She did not rule out the prospect of some cathedral closures, saying: ""If a cathedral finds itself in problems, it undermines the whole ministry of the Church in that diocese.

Image caption The dean of York suggested local councils could give more to cathedrals

"And that's why we will work really hard to make sure there is a way in which cathedral ministry can continue in every English diocese."

The chapter of Guildford Cathedral has reportedly considered closing it, following the rejection of a plan by local councillors to build housing to raise money.

The dean of York also raised the prospect of local councils giving more money to cathedrals.

She said: "We have to look very carefully at a series of business models.

"There are those that are the big honeypot cathedrals, there are those more middling... and there are the smaller cathedrals, many of which are in regeneration areas.

"Those may be working much more closely with their local authority."

'Over-reaction'

The Very Rev Adrian Dorber, who chairs the Association of English Cathedrals, called the bishop of Peterborough's suggestion that bishops become more closely involved in running their cathedrals an "overreaction".

The Dean of Lichfield added: "The bishop, as a visitor, has quite enough power.

"Many cathedrals find themselves in financial difficulties.

"What we probably need is a cool look at this rather than leaping into a panicked decision."

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