By John Carey THE Westminster archdiocese is celebrating its healthiest financial report for several years, having cut its deficit from more than £860,000 to about 180,000 in 1978.
The heartening figures were announced at a public meeting last week when the detailed accounts were presented. They included excerpts from a letter written by Cardinal Hume to all the priests of the archdiocese in which he described the results as "quite remarkable". He congratulated them on their efforts and thanked them for their help and cooperation.
The figures cover the annual "running expenses" and do not affect the arch diocese's debt, which stands at more than £4.7 million. Mgr Ralph Brown, Westminster's vicar general in charge of finance. He stressed in particular the big increase in covenants and parish offerings. Cardinal Hume said that the people of Westminster could take pride in the fact that the archdiocese came "top of the league" in the number of covenants signed.
The covenant scheme enables the archdiocese to recoup tax paid by individuals: a covenanted offering of El a week. ler example, ensures an annual bonus for the parish of more than £20.
As expected parish assessments are to rise from January after being deliberately held steady for a year. However. in his letter Cardinal Hume said: "I am glad to say that the increase is not as much as had earlier been predicted." An expected increase &about £25 in every £100 would be kept down to one of £18 despite an inflation rise of more than 26 per cent, he said.
Assessments are calculated on the basis that each working Mass-goer should contribute one hour's wages per week. From January this is assessed at £1.30 with 92p going to the parish and 38p to the Westminster Development Fund.
Big savings have been made through the system of centralised banking whereby all the parishes paid money into two banks rather than having their separate accounts, Mgr Brown said. Effectively the system helped poorer parishes by cutting overheads and interest payments. Centralised banking has offset the rise in interest charges caused by the rise of the bank base rate from 6-1 to 121 per cent during 1978. Loan repayments during the year totalled almost £600,000.
The cost of school building was also reduced from £648.508 to £362,244. However, budgets for 1979 and 1980 are £390,500 and £431,000 respectively. The statement of accounts said that the reduction in 1978 reflected the effect of a "stringent phasing of the school building programme."
The sale or school sites over the two years 1979 and 1980 is expected to produce a total of £308,000 which will be used to help repay outstanding loans.
The increase of £46,000 in expenditure in 1978 was mainly due to staff salary rises.
Westminster has started to operate the Catholic National Mutual Trust company, a new company v.hich 15 other dioceses have also joined. The aims of the company are to secure better insurance terms and reduce overheads,