Bishop's Council agrees Common Fund Freeze for 2021


The Bishop’s Council of the Diocese met over two days on Zoom on 18/19 November.  They covered a wide range of issues, many of which arise from the pandemic and Brexit.  The Council agreed a new financial plan for the Diocese to run from 2020 to 2024.  A key element of the plan is to freeze the Common Fund request to chaplaincies for a further year in 2021 and then introduce only small increases in the succeeding years.  This means that the Common Fund request will not exceed the previously planned amount until 2024.

In addition to a reduced Common Fund request the Council agreed a proposal to set aside a Covid hardship fund of £150,000 in 2021 to assist chaplaincies whose finances have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.  This builds on the fund this year which has distributed nearly £200,000 so far primarily to support clergy in chaplaincies where there was a risk that stipends might not be paid.

The plan forecasts a cumulative deficit for the Diocese of £1.4 million over 5 years by which point the annual budget needs to be balanced.  The deficit will be funded from reserves.

The Diocese has successfully applied to the Church Commissioners for assistance and they awarded a grant of £210,000 to the Diocese from their emergency funds.

The Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Caspari said:

 ‘The funds received from the National Church will make a significant impact on our ability to help chaplaincies most in need at this difficult time.  We are very grateful.  The agreement of the Bishop’s Council, with no opposition, to the financial strategy is a significant step in our plans for the future and represents a careful balance between our urgent needs and the long-term financial health of the Diocese.’

The Council also considered the implications of Brexit for the Diocese and in particular issues around GDPR.  There will be more detail on this in the coming weeks, and the objective is to make this as simple as possible for our chaplaincies. 

The Council also heard reports from across the Diocese which reflected the challenges chaplaincies have faced and some of the solutions they have found during the pandemic. 

On 10/11 December the Diocesan Synod will meet online over four, two-hour sessions.  Topics to be covered include Eco-Church, Racial Justice and the Clergy Covenant which aims to improve clergy well-being.   There will be a report on Synod on the website.