Jobs cuts predicted as Church looks to merger

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CONTROVERSIAL Church of England plans to create a Yorkshire “super-diocese” could lead to significant cash savings and job cuts, according to a report.

The overall proposal is to replace the existing three dioceses – Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield – with a new single one.

Yesterday, the Dioceses Commission, which is overseeing the plans, published more details.

The commission said the new diocese would be called Leeds, also to be known as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, and would be led by a new Bishop of Leeds, whose prompt appointment is seen as a priority.

There will also be area bishops in Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield.

Existing cathedrals will be retained and have equal status. And the new Bishop of Leeds will get permission to designate Leeds Parish Church, now known as Leeds Minster, as an “acting” or pro-cathedral.

Critics have previously complained that the proposed new set-up will be dominated by Leeds and others believe the changes are financially driven.

The report notes that future savings could be “significant”.

It states: “...the potential for further significant financial savings is considerable as more efficient working practices are developed across the new diocese in areas such as combining ‘back office’ and administration functions.”

Once fully established the net savings in revenue costs will be around £800,000 a year.

Staff posts will be reduced and in five years the total salary costs will be 10 per cent lower than present, according to the report.

Money will have to be spent providing housing for two area bishops but up to £1.5m could be raised by selling two diocesan bishops’ residences.

Prof Michael Clarke, chairman of the commission, said: “The main concern of the commission has always been about how to best resource mission in the area and our consultation has shown that a single scheme is the best way forward.

“We hope that the diocesan synods will approve the scheme and take up the challenge of developing their vision for the new diocese.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity which we believe must not be lost.”

The Bishop of Bradford, Nick Baines, said: “A single, larger diocese would help the Church of England thrive and meet the challenges of the 21st century in this part of Yorkshire.

“The smaller episcopal areas would bring a greater sense of belonging and local identity, and the day-to-day life of the parishes would be strengthened by increased strategic resourcing; for example, we’d all have access to a greater range of expertise and experience. I am convinced we would be more than the sum of our parts.

“This is an unprecedented and imaginative move on the part
of the Church of England and
we have the opportunity locally
to create and shape the detail in order that the church can serve the region in the best way possible.”

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer, said: “I very much welcome the way the commission has emphasised the mission opportunities which the new diocese will present.

“I am particularly pleased that the parishes of the city of Leeds will come together in a single episcopal area as this will enhance our ministry to the whole city.

“I also believe that the new northern archdeaconry will have a great opportunity to concentrate on the opportunities and challenges with which the rural church now engages.

“I look forward to the discussions leading up to the Synod vote in March and to a wide debate on the mission opportunities with which we are presented.”