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Help for Leeds?

Should financially stable dioceses step help those that need more funds? An announcement that the Diocese of Leeds must review salaries, make staff redundant, and close its pension program has triggered a national debate.

Leeds is the Church of England’s youngest diocese, formed in 2014 from the amalgamation of the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds, and Wakefield. It comprises 460 parishes and 356 paid clergy.

There was a shortfall in parishes’ support of the diocese last year. A plan to redress an unsustainable £3 million deficit includes making 14 staff redundant and closing the pension program. The diocese employs 110 people.

The situation in this North Yorkshire diocese has prompted another northern bishop, the Rt. Rev. Philip North, Suffragan Bishop of Burnley (in the Diocese of Blackburn), to call for wealthier dioceses to pay more toward the costs of poorer dioceses.

He said Church of England funding for dioceses amounts to a “postcode lottery,” adding that there is a “shocking disparity” between dioceses. The situation in Leeds, he said, is “a symptom of a much deeper financial and institutional sickness.”

But the Rt. Rev. Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, dismissed the ideas of his fellow bishop as nonsense. Other senior clergy said that many southern dioceses faced challenges to achieve self-sufficiency without being buffered by investments.

Nevertheless, there was criticism of decisions made during the merger of the three dioceses. There are claims, for instance, that the diocese could make significant savings by decreasing support for its cathedrals in BradfordRipon, and Wakefield.

John Martin

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