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Commissioners hold to a steady course

Speaking about the Church Commissioners' Report and Accounts for 1999 today, the First Church Estates Commissioner, John Sclater CVO, said:

"For six successive years the Commissioners have produced a total return on their assets ahead of their independent benchmark. This is a fine achievement, but the fact is that the Commissioners' funds remain fully committed. The Commissioners will stick to their strategy of investing to provide sustainable support towards the costs of the Church's ministry in the long term. They will focus on looking for ways of increasing, if possible, their support for ministry in areas of need and opportunity in the years ahead."

The market value of the Commissioners' assets was £4,400 million at 31 December 1999 (£3,732 million at 31 December 1998). The total return was 22.7%, 1.5% ahead of the WM All Funds average (the benchmark used by the Commissioners). Over five years the total return was 19.1% a year, 2.5% ahead of the benchmark. The Commissioners' £648 million portfolio of overseas equities, which was increased during the year, was the best performing asset class, returning 41.3%.

Income was £140.7 million, up £12.1 million on 1998, due mainly to £10.6 million in special dividend distributions from quoted companies in the Commissioners' UK equities portfolio.

Total expenditure in support of the Church's ministry was £156.1 million. This included £15.4 million spent from capital under the power to spend capital on clergy pensions granted in the 1997 Pensions Measure.

The largest item of expenditure was clergy pensions at £86.9 million, with an additional £17.3 million in relief given on a self-assessment basis to dioceses to ease the introduction of the new clergy pensions scheme for service after 1997. This tapering assistance will last until 2003. The Commissioners meet all clergy pensions arising from service before 1998.

The Church's total clergy stipends bill in 1999 was £167.8 million. Out of this the Commissioners paid £26.1 million (15.6% of the total). The Commissioners' contribution paid for the stipends of all 114 bishops and of 124 cathedral clergy as well as £20.6 million towards parish clergy stipends.

The Commissioners meet all the costs of all 114 bishops except for the accommodation of the 70 suffragan bishops. In total these costs were £11.8 million in 1999, the same as in 1998. Bishops' costs include the cost of employing and providing offices for 250 staff.

The Commissioners have contributed evidence to the Archbishops' Review of Bishops' Needs and Resources, which is being chaired by Professor Anthony Mellows and is expected to report at the end of the year.

Following a period of consultation throughout the Church, the Commissioners have successfully stabilised and consolidated their financial affairs and their contribution to the Church of England over the last five years. The Commissioners will keep the pattern of their expenditure under regular review in order to ensure that it is directed most beneficially for the Church as a whole with particular reference to need and opportunity.

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