Anglicans launch rescue bid England’s most beautiful cathedrals of the battle a financial crisis

The Church of England has launched an investigation into the execution of the cathedrals, such as the financial crises, threaten the future of some of the most beloved buildings.

As Christians prepare to mark the Holy Week and Easter Sunday, the Anglican leaders have become increasingly concerned about the reports of the staff was dismissed, the heavy accumulated debts and the goods sold out.

On Monday the church announced the 12 members of a working group ordered by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, to look at the way in which cathedrals are governed, their responsibilities and how financial decisions are made. The working group will include financial specialists and other experts, and will be presided over by the bishop of Stepney, Adrian Newman, the dean of York, the Rev Vivienne Faull, in quality of vice-president.

The investigation was prompted by a recent report on the financial problems at Peterborough cathedral, where the difficulties had led to the departure of the dean and the risk that the church may not be able to pay the staff their salaries. A loan from the Church Commissioners helped to deal with the immediate deficit to the 12th century former Benedictine abbey, the custody of Catherine of Aragon the tomb, but that 12 staff were made redundant.

The ratio of Peterborough by his bishop Donald Allister, has warned that the situation was so serious that he has shown us the framework of governance for the Anglican cathedrals, which allows them to be independent, could cause “serious risks to the reputation of the whole church”. He said Peterborough had complied with the 1999 Cathedrals Measure, which governs their execution, but the control and protection as the regulations were “clearly insufficient to avoid the problems that have occurred”.

Guildford cathedral. Development plans of the houses of surplus land have failed. Photograph: Loop Images/uig via Getty Images

Peterborough is not alone. Among the other cathedrals in difficulty are:

■ Exeter, where the principal was accused of financial mismanagement by the bishop, the Rt Rev Robert Atwell. It is spoken of redundancies of staff and the cathedral faces a predicted deficit of € 175,000 after a failed £8.7 m plan to restore the Roman baths on the site.

■ Guildford, Surrey, where the plans for the construction of houses in excess of the church of the earth that would have raised a £10m fund have been thrown out by the council. The cathedral is losing £100,000 a year.

■ Durham, which has an annual deficit of £500,000. Its annual report says it faces “continued pressure on traditional revenues (rents, income, dividends)”. Income from “new commercial activities is increasing, but not at a fast enough rate to cover our costs of management”.

■ Ripon, which is running a deficit of £40,000 on revenue of £1.34 m, although it has cut the deficit by £250,000 five years ago.

Under the Cathedrals Measure, which will be discussed by the working group, every cathedral is managed by a dean and chapter, is governed by a board of lay people, which meets twice a year to advise the chapter and college of canons. Both the latter can see the accounts. The local bishop acts as a regulator. According to Newman, the working group chairman: “it is time to look at these measures and ask if they are suitable for the purpose. The buildings themselves are a huge problem. You can see a cathedral such as an albatross, but they are also our best resources. But the cathedral of the ministry is challenging and this has become more acute.”

The crisis in the cathedrals, in a moment of great success. The most recent statistics, for 2015, the show of participation for the cult continues to grow, with mid-week services the main cause of the increase. On average, 36,700 people have participated each week in 2015, with the Christmas attract 125,200 worshippers. The second day was Easter Sunday, with 54,000 going to the cathedral service. In the meantime, the Association of English Cathedrals estimated that the cathedral tourism generates £91 million euro and supports more than 2,800 jobs. York Minster from only get 490,000 visitors a year.

But the biggest headache for the principals is the enormous cost of repairs. The finances are complicated. The majority of their income must be raised by the churches themselves, even if the Church Commissioners award of 9 million pounds a year for salaries and pensions.

The money comes from legacies, donations, sale of goods, the contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund and entrance fees, even if only nine of the 42 English cathedrals charge. The dean of Wells, the Rev Dr John Davies, said his cathedral was against the entrance fee. Instead, it is based on bequests and film location fees. “We have 250,000 visitors a year,” he said, “but there would be the face of a fee. It seems wrong.”

Exeter cathedral is expected to report a € 175,000 deficit. Photography: Olaf Protze/LightRocket via Getty Images

Despite its financial problems, the cathedral of Durham is also against the entrance fee. The 12 ° century, the church is to invest in tourist attractions, adjacent buildings, for which the admission charge price. Paul Chandler, president of the council, said: “unlike some of the other cathedrals we also have activities that we are able to sell agricultural land for development, and we have historical objects we can loan for a fee. But you also need to cut costs. We don’t have a particular plan for layoffs, but we can’t keep adding staff.”

Other cathedrals have opted for very secular fundraising ventures, such as taking their aisles for business dinners and fashion shows. In Peterborough, the ship will be used for the next month, Strictly, the Cathedral of £25-a-head dance show and prosecco reception, starring the Olympic gymnast and Strictly come Dancing champion Louis Smith.

A further recent boost came from the First World War Centenary Cathedrals Repair Fund, established by the former chancellor George Osborne, who has provided £40m over two years for repairs. The dean of Ripon, the Rev John Dobson, has said that the fund had enabled the cathedral, the repair, which should have been done 20 years before. Faull, the working group of the vice-president, said that the safeguards would be lobbying the government for a fund similar to Osborne.

“The first world war, the fund has been a godsend,” he said. “Major construction works and urgent repairs are the shocks that can cause financial problems, especially for the smaller cathedrals.”

The Archbishops ‘ Council, chaired by Welby and Sentamu, wants the working group report completed by December. But the focus on finance does not appeal to everyone. The dean of Peterborough, the Rev Charles Taylor, has warned in his last sermon that the deans and the bishops are sent to courses, “not to hone their skills in theology, or liturgy, the community, or pastoral care, but also to take a mini-MBA. The model of the Good Shepherd, has been hijacked from the model of the chief executive officer.”

• This article was amended on April 9, 2017, to correct the main image. The first image shows the Cathedral of St Albans, rather than the one in Peterborough.