PARISH MAY BE ASKED TO PAY BACK £21,000
1C.H.' Correspondent, Newcastle DESCRIBING a Ministry of Education claim for a refund of £21,000-part of a grant made in 1951-as "absurd", Fr. Joseph Marshall, parish priest of English Martyrs parish, Cowgate, Newcastle-on-Tyne, said "whether the Ministry is right or wrong it is absurd to come along after 10 years and spring this bombshell on us.
"No priest who wants to build a school is going to feel safe after this."
The news that the parish of 4,000 might be called on to face such a demand was given to parishioners a month ago. But last weekend it flared into a national story being publicised in most of the principal newspapers.
Fr, Marshall told a CATHOLIC HERALD representative this week that he has not received any direct communication from the Ministry -the matter was first brought to his notice by the Catholic Education Council.
The story of Cowgate Junior and Infants School is similar to many throughout the country. Before the war, when the parish was still new, Fr. Marshall planned a new school. The war intervened, the plans were scrapped, and it was not until 1951 that the new £110,000 scheme was drawn up.
Towards this cost parishioners subscribed 151,000. The Ministry gave the grant applicable and in 1952 paid a final sum of £28,000. Now, according to reports, they are alleging that this was done in error and that the sum should have been 0,000 only.
The school, planned for 400, has 436 pupils.
So far as a Ministry spokesman's statement that there was a change of plan on the part of the Catholics which meant that a smaller grant became payable to that school, Fr. Marshall said that there were no changes as far as he knew,
According to this same Ministry spokesman, " By arrangement with the Catholic Education Council of that time the overpayment will be recovered by payment of less grant to another project in the same diocese ".
This may be the solution as far as the Ministry is concerned, said a layman, but it seems hard on the parish which is going to have its grant cut and it would be embarrassing if they felt that the English Martyrs parish was " responsible " for their loss.
So far, it is believed. the Ministry has not actually made a demand for the return of the money from English Martyrs parish.
John Gordon, writing in the "Sunday Express ", described the Ministry's claim as " preposterous nonsense ", adding. " If the Ministry made a mistake then it should accept the consequence of its blunder ". But that is assuming that the Ministry is correct in its claim!