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Saturday, 7 July 2007

Old priests don't die... - (b) 7July2007

The pensions industries nationally have had a hard time over recent years. Many schemes for national organisations and businesses have had to be completely re-aligned because of the costs of running them, and the CofE is in exactly the same situation.

Where it is perhaps more complicated for clergy is that they have to live in tied accommodation for the whole of their working life, and then for many, enter the housing market on retirement. Some clergy were even encouraged to sell houses a number of years ago, to help pay for training. A scheme currently available for clergy allows approximately £100k on a sort of loan, to buy somewhere - and it is acknowledged that there are few places in the country where it might even be possible to buy a reasonable house for that sort of sum.
So who pays for the clergy pensions? It is complicated, but by and large, the people in the parishes do. And here is the rub: 
  • Clergy have been promised in the past that 'they would be looked after in retirement'
  • Pension schemes are moving towards putting between 40-50% of stipend into pensions
  • Parishes cannot continue to give such accelerated increases in giving for ever
Many referred to not wishing to 'rob Peter to pay Paul'. Some of the current plans are to restrict what clergy pensions might be, so that costs are not excessive. A Synod report a number of years ago on pensions was called Generosity and Sacrifice. It would appear that parishes and clergy both need to make sacrifices, and both need to be generous. There are no easy solutions to the pensions conundrum, but after thorough discussion, nay agonising, Synod feels it is making the best decision, for now.
Alastair GS101

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