FINANCIAL cutbacks have forced the diocese of Arundel and Brighton to make three staff in their education office redundant.
In a reorganisation of the diocesan schools service, director Mgr James McConnon has been forced to make savings.
Failure to renew the contracts of long-serving members of the education team was a matter of great regret, Mgr McConnon stressed, and redundancy packages would be available to those who qualified for them. However, three of the staff being made redundant would not be re-deployed in other areas of the diocese, he said.
In November, Bishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor of Arundel and Brighton appealed to parishioners to help meet the diocesan debt of 1.250,000. In a pastoral letter the bishop invited parishioners to donate £2 million to cover projected future diocesan expenses. He called for 2,000 donors to come forward to give sums of £1,000 as interest free loans to the diocese.
There has been a generous response to the appeal said Fr Kieron 0 Brien, the bishop's secretary and diocesan information officer. However, the money donated so far has fallen short of the target, and therefore cutbacks in staff had to be made, he added.
A spokesman for the diocesan Council of Priests criticised the decision to make savings by putting lay workers out of a job. "We were not informed of these redundancies." he said.
Many of the diocesan priests and parishioners had been surprised at a figure of £2 million for the bishop's appeal. he said. "This is one of the richest dioceses in the country. Why is there such a demand for this money now? The need for £2 million seems to point to mismanagement of local resources," he said.
The Renew parish renewal programme, used in parishes for the last two and a half years, had proved very costly, he claimed.
Mgr McConnon put the diocese's financial difficulties down to the rising cost of building work on Catholic schools, the restoration of Arundel cathedral, and escalating salary costs of lay staff. All three were a substantial drain on resources, he pointed out.
The bishop's appeal closes at Easter, and the money raised will be divided out among all the diocesan services. "We hope that we can balance our books at the Education Centre. If not we will have to ask for some of this appeal money," Mgr McConnon explained.