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Is this the best use of public money? Minister for Faith concludes tour of England’s 42 cathedrals

Lord Bourne on his tour.

Humanists UK has branded a new Department for Communities and Local Government report on the role of cathedrals in England as a waste of taxpayer funds as it fails to make any recommendations with regard to policy, in spite of being published as the conclusion of a year-long taxpayer-funded tour by the Minister for Faith, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, of all 42 cathedrals in England.

The report makes no recommendations about Government policy towards cathedrals and does not attempt to analyse whether taxpayer funding of renovation work, estimated to be £40 million between 2014 and 2016 from the First World War Centenary Fund alone, is good value for money. Rather the report focuses on descriptions of various events held by cathedrals, including which ones have been used in the backdrop in film and television productions, and lists notable historical figures who are buried in or near cathedrals. All of this information is already in the public domain.

Given the lack of analysis or recommendations contained within the report, the purpose of the Minister’s tour and what value it has for the taxpayer are unclear. The report – which, indifferent to surveys showing non-religious people are the majority, boldly asserts that ‘Britain remains a Christian country’ – appears to be more a piece of propaganda supporting the Church of England rather than a neutral analysis of Government-funded programmes.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Given the fact that the report contains no real substance, amounting to little more than a description of Lord Bourne’s journey, we believe that taxpayers are entitled to question what the point of his year-long expedition was and why it was funded. We are disappointed that the Department for Communities and Local Government did not take this opportunity to conduct a serious analysis of the value to taxpayers, Christians and non-Christians, of cathedral renovation. Given that the Church of England is the custodian of a £7.9 billion investment fund, which returned over 17% on assets in 2016, it would have been highly appropriate for the Minister for Faith to address why we are funding cathedrals at all.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 07815 589636.

Read the report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cathedrals-and-their-communities

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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