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Church calls for cash for building upkeep

The Church of England has called on the government to put up more cash to keep up church buildings.

The Church has over 16,000 buildings, which it is required to maintain given their age and historical significance. But the government does not fund the work despite the buildings’ significance to the UK’s heritage and importance to the tourism industry.

The Church’s building cost over £160m per year to maintain. Of the 16,000, around 12,000 are listed.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said: “Compared with most European governments, the British system doesn’t provide very much at all. Congregations throughout the UK raise upwards of £110m per year towards the maintenance of their Churches, but this still falls about £60m short of what we really need.”

Labour MP and former Chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust Frank Field told the Radio 4 Today Programme this morning that the Church could afford to pay for the repairs itself, but half of the Church’s assets will go towards plugging a hole in its Pension Fund.

Comparing the funding of Churches to that of Universities, he pointed out that Oxford University received £5.5m towards restoration, while Cambridge University received £4.5m. Cathedrals in or around those cities received nothing, by contrast.

Countries such as France consider cathedrals a national asset and the Government there has contributed £110m towards their upkeep in the last two years.

Mr Field said that funding from the government was likely to be difficult to obtain: “we are going into a period of massive public expenditure cuts,” he said.

By David Lowery.

Listen to the Today Programme discussion here.