National Churches Trust Budget Representation 2021
Published: Friday, January 15, 2021
Making the financial case for the social value of church buildings.
Each year, HM Treasury invites interest groups, individuals or representative bodies to comment on government policy and/or suggest new policy for inclusion in the upcoming Budget.
In 2021, our submission focuses on the social benefit provided to people and local communities in the UK by church buildings and the need for financial support to keep them open and sustainable.
View and download the full representation here.
Delivering social value
The UK's 42,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses are so much more than places of worship.
From foodbanks to credit unions, church buildings across the UK provide a growing list of essential services for people in urgent need. The impact of COVID-19 has made the social value of church buildings even more relevant.
In 2020 The House of Good, a report commissioned by the National Churches Trust, quantified the economic and social value of church buildings to the UK. Not just the bricks and mortar but the welfare and wellbeing they create in our communities.
The report demonstrated that the total economic and social value that church buildings generate in the UK is at least £12.4 billion per year, which averages around £300,000 per church. That is roughly equal to the total NHS spending on mental health in England in 2018.
Keeping church buildings open.
We recognize the immense support of the government in making available the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, and recently the announcement of a second round, as well as additional funds made available by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. To date we understand that churches have received in excess of £30 million towards revenue and capital costs which is a great support.
To remain at the service of local people and communities, church buildings need to remain open and have essential facilities such as toilets and kitchens.
However, the poor condition of many church buildings remains a source of great concern. Historic England's 2020 'Heritage at Risk Register' included over 900 listed places of worship that are in a particularly parlous state.
Congregations remain key to raising funds to pay for repairs and maintenance. But in many cases it is impossible for them to raise the money themselves. That is why in recent years the UK's mixed economy of local funding, national philanthropy from trusts and foundations and Governmental heritage body grants has proved so essential and effective in safeguarding the heritage of many churches, chapels and meeting houses.
Carrying out church repairs and maintenance is a boon to local economies as this work often involves local contractors and makes use of an incredible range of heritage craft skills at which the UK excels.
Extending the benefit and value of church buildings
Church buildings provide a vital public service by providing a place where people can meet, collaborate and build community.
However, many church buildings cannot be used to their full potential as they lack basic facilities such as toilets and kitchens. The Church of England estimated in 2017 that only half of its churches have a kitchen and one third lack toilet facilities. The situation is likely to be similar, if not worse, in buildings belonging to other denominations.
In its submission for the 2021 Budget, the National Churches Trust asks for the establishment of a new Listed Places of Worship Urgent Repair and Maintenance Fund. This would provide an annual £10 million funding scheme to run from 2021 – 2025.
In addition, the National Churches Trust asks that a new Churches Community Facilities Grant Programme be established. This would be a £10 million capital-only grant scheme and be targeted at church buildings in deprived areas.
Grants would be made available for the physical improvement of churches by the installation of toilets or kitchens up to a total of £20,000. If the maximum amount were to be claimed for every grant, a £10 million fund could help pay for the installation of 500 toilets or kitchens – a match-funding scheme could help pay for 1,000.
The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme gives grants that cover the VAT incurred in making repairs to listed buildings in use as places of worship. Although churches and cathedrals are responsible for fundraising for their own repairs, the scheme pays grants to cover the VAT incurred on urgent structural work and new roofs and reduces the burden on congregations to raise funds.
Without it, a church would have to add 20% onto the cost of a repair project, a substantial increase in costs and a gap many funders, like ourselves, would not be able to cover. The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme has paid out over £296m since its inception and assisted over 13,000 buildings.
In October 2019 it was announced that the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme was to be extended by the Treasury for a further year until March 2021.
The National Churches Trusts asks that the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme funding be guaranteed until March 2025, to provide certainty for churches undertaking repair projects, and whose finances have been so severely impacted as a result of Covid-19.