Cost of bishops doubles in 10 years

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The Independent Online
THE CHURCH Commissioners have rejected suggestions that bishops are living the high life while parish clergy struggle to make ends meet, despite figures showing that bishops are spending twice as much as a decade ago.

The annual accounts, published yesterday, showed that the Church Commissioners of England spent pounds 8.8m last year on bishops, compared with pounds 4.3m in 1989. The figure covers the upkeep of the bishops' personal and office accommodation and the salaries of their 250 staff.

This was in contrast to pounds 20m spent on parochial ministry support within the Church of England, which has declined from pounds 58.6m in 1989.

The accounts were published as it emerged that one bishop had held a champagne breakfast to celebrate Easter and that others had been criticised for their expenses claims.

But a spokesman for the commissioners said: "The bulk of the costs are to help 113 bishops who are employing staff to help them go about their work and as time goes on they are increasingly busy and have more work to do."

He said the commissioners were legally obliged to pay for the bishops and for clergy pensions, the cost of which has risen steeply in the past 10 years, and that they did not have a legal responsibility to support the parochial ministries. "We have had to cut back on the money we give to the clergy because we are now having to spend pounds 85m a year on pensions as opposed to pounds 49.5m 10 years ago."

Julian Hewitt, a spokesman for Salisbury diocese, said most bishops tried to keep down costs. He said the Right Rev David Stancliffe, the Bishop of Salisbury, had indeed held a champagne breakfast reception but it had been a ticket event and everyone who came had paid towards their drinks. "The Bishop works very hard and very long hours and it is pretty awful to imply that he is living the high life when, in fact, he leads a very simple life," he said.

A spokeswoman for Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that although his wife often travelled with him her costs were paid for by the receiving church. "Everyone at Lambeth Palace is very conscious that our salaries are paid for by other people and we are very careful not to waste money," she said.

But the Rev Edward Underhill, of St George's Church in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, said that while most bishops led a simple lifestyle, they had become too managerial. "Bishops used to spend time in their diocese doing pastoral work but now they spend a lot of time and money travelling to London for meetings. There is no reason why some of the dioceses should not be amalgamated as long as there was a good administrative team and then they could get rid of some of the bishops."

How They

Really Live

George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury

Lives in a three-bedroom flat in Lambeth Palace. There are three staff flats as well as two floors of offices and several reception rooms.

Jim Thompson, Bishop of Bath and Wells

Lives in servants' quarters of a 13th-century moated palace in Wells. The gardener, the chaplain and the warden also live there and the bishop's staff are based there. Rooms are available to hire and the palace and gardens are open to the public.

Richard Chartres, Bishop of London

Lives with his family in the converted attic of the old Deanery, opposite St Paul's Cathedral. The basement is rented out to a firm of solicitors and the other floors are used as offices and meeting rooms for his staff.

David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury

The former Bishop's Palace has been converted into a school. The bishop lives in a house on the Cathedral Close. He holds meetings in the kitchen.

David Bentley, Bishop of Gloucester

Lives in a family-sized house which was built about 40 years ago. There are offices for his staff of a secretary and chaplain.

Michael Turnbull, Bishop of Durham

Lives in an apartment in one wing of Auckland Castle, where the Bishops of Durham have lived since medieval times. As well as offices for staff, some rooms are let out for functions.