Page 2, 13th January 1978

13th January 1978
Page 2
Page 2, 13th January 1978 — Westminster is first diocese to reveal financial plans

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Westminster is first diocese to reveal financial plans

CARDINAL HUME has called on all wageearners in the Westminster diocese to contribute the financial equivalent of one hour's work a week to the Church.

The appeal accompanies the publication of Westminster's 1978 budget, which is an attempt by the Cardinal and his staff to sort out the financial chaos inherited from the previous administration.

Publication of the budget with full details of the funds needed for the coming year, and an account of how they will be spent, makes ecclesiastical history. Westminster is the first British diocese ever to open its detailed financial plans to the laity. Last year's audited accounts will also be open to inspection by an interested parishioners.

At a Press conference this week Mgr Ralph Brown, VicarGeneral with responsibility for the diocese's finance, said that publication of the budget marked a new policy of openness and accountability to the laity in money matters. He hoped that in time parish priests would also be encouraged to publish their accounts.

The budget, which will he available in all parishes, reveals that the diocese will administer a total of .£3,000,000 this year, of which £1,577,000 will come from government and local authority grants, towards school building projects leaving 11,423,000 to be raised from parish contributions, donations and dividends on diocesan investment.

Most of this sum, £1,278,000, will be in the form of contributions from the parishes to the Westminster Development Fund, which replaces the Central Schools Fund.

In some cases parish assessments have been more than doubled and a new form of assessment based on the number of wage-earners in each parish has been introduced. Of the overall 11,423,000. the sum of £208,000 will be spent on administration, while £253,000 will go to pastoral services which include the work of university and industrial chaplains and those serving the minority communities.

A further £370,000 will be spent on school building, mainly on projects which it would now be too expensive to cancel because of investments already made and penalty clauses in cancelling contracts. The' remaining 1592,000 will finance diocesan borrowing in ttie form of interest charges.

In the budget, the diocese freely admits that the policy of providing a place in a Catholic school for every child whose parents wanted such a place "has been the major cause of past expenditure and present debt."

While in no way regretting such a policy, the diobese now recognises that with the falling birth-rate the need to expand the school system has come to an end.

This will make it possible for the diocese to devote resources to a much wider field of education which will include adult eduction, the youth service, the care of students in higher education and religious education.

Mgr Brown also said this week that as the diocese's financial problems eased, a larger proportion of the budget would be spent on pastoral services and social care in general.

The budget represents a sharp cutback in spending expected after it was revealed last year that the diocese was £64 million in debt and might have to pay as much as threequarters of a million pounds in interest on borrowing in 1978. Mgr Brown emphasised that the budget would have to be strictly adhered to, and that drastic measures, including selling churches and the diocesan investment portfolio, would have to be considered if it were not.

Economy measures, such as the introduction of a centralised banking scheme for parishes, and bulk buying of fuel by the diocese, are also planned.

Plans for selling surplus sites are already being considered as a way of reducing the diocese's capital debt, and a joint walking party of the Justice and Peace Commission and Laity Commission are preparing comments on the moral implications of some of the diocese's investments.

At present the diocese owns £123 million worth of property assessed at 1976 insurance value. This includes churches, presbyteries and schools, but Mgr Brown stressed that most of this property could not be sold and therefore represented unrealisable assets.

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