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Financial Update from the Chair of the Board of Finance

First published on: 13th February 2020

The Chair of the Board of Finance, Phillip Blinkhorn, sets out the thinking behind the budget for 2020 - 2022

During 2019 it became clear that our diocesan plan, agreed in October 2018, to return to a break-even position by 2021 following relatively small deficits in 2019 and 2020 would not be achieved. Whilst the expenditure plans had not changed, our income projections were clearly too optimistic, with the result that we are expecting an operating deficit in excess of 1million for 2019.

Parish share receipts in 2018 were significantly below expectations. In 2018 the amount received from parishes was 7.09m, considerably less than the 7.27m received in 2017 and the 7.45m originally budgeted.The Discussion and Agreement Team process that we introduced in 2017 has been a real benefit in terms of our common understanding of the financial situation for both our parishes and the DBF, but it has shown that we cannot plan for a return to the levels of share income seen up to 2017.In real spending power terms, adjusting for inflation, share receipts in 2018 declined by 13% from 2014.This correlates to the reductions in attendance in our churches over this period.

Whilst the final accounts for 2019 are still being prepared, I have to report that Parish Share receipts for 2019 will be considerably below the 2018 result.

There has also been a further fall in income for parochial fees which mirrors the continuing decline in the numbers of weddings and funerals.

Last year our initial response to the financial position and the outlook for future years was to initiate a review of operations in Church House.This led to a restructuring, unfortunately involving some job losses, from which we expect to reduce expenditure by 250,000 a year from 2020.We will continue to look for ways to generate additional income from our assets, and in 2020 we will be looking at reducing the number of surplus vicarages and parsonages.

The largest part of our expenditure is spent on maintaining stipendiary ministry, the cost of our clergy.For many years we have budgeted for the number of clergy that we expect to be able to appoint as a fair share for Manchester of the clergy available nationally.This has meant that numbers of stipendiary clergy have dropped in line with the overall reduction in clergy in England.

Unfortunately, we will now have to plan for the number of clergy that we can afford rather than the number that might be available.This is a major change in our thinking, and it is a decision that has not been taken lightly.What it means for us that the total number, including stipendiary curates, of clergy will go from 201 at the end of this year to 175 by the end of 2022.A small team headed by the Bishop of Middleton is now working on plans for how this reduction can be achieved.None of us can understate the impact this will have on the future patterns of ministry in our diocese.

It is my expectation that these plans will enable us to return to a break-even position by the end of 2022.It will be a very difficult time for all of us, but I believe that these changes are vital if we are to move forward in the next decade to be a Church for a Different World. 

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