On the 10th of September 2015 Caroline Spelman MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner, answered five written questions from members of the House of Commons, about metal theft, closed churches and food banks.
Caroline Spelman: With regards to open churches the number of churches in the Blackburn Diocese which have suffered from metal theft can be found on the chart below. The chart shows the volume of claims have dropped dramatically since 2011 when the Scrap Metal Dealers Act was enforced there are still a small number of persistent gangs operating across the country who continue to damage and vandalise these local community assets. The total number of thefts does not tell the whole story as the cost to the individual parish which has suffered the damage is often considerable to repair, replace and take preventative steps against future thefts.
|Year Claim Made||2011||2012||2013||2014||Total|
|Diocese of Blackburn||73||27||14||13||127|
The Churches listed below have registered 50 thefts in the specified period and are the worst effected, in addition to the list below 49 other churches have registered 77 claims in this period.
1 Lytham St Cuthbert – Grade 11
2 Colne St Bartholomew – Grade1
3 Chorley St George – Grade 11*
4 Chorley St Peter – Grade 11
5 Charnock Richard Christ Church – Grade 11
6 Cockerham St Michael – Grade 11*
7 Hoole St Michael – Grade 11*
8 Bamber Bridge St Saviour – Grade 11
9 Grimsargh St Michael – Grade 11
10 Walton-le-Dale St Leonard – Grade 11*
11 Church Kirk St James – Grade 11*
12 Accrington St John Grade 11
13 Over Kellet St Cuthbert Grade 11*
14 Leyland St James Grade 11
15 Mellor St Mary Grade II
16 Douglas in Parbold Christ Church Grade 11
17 Kirkham St Michael Grade 11*
18 Woodplumpton St Anne – Grade11*
19 Chorley St Laurence – Grade 11 *
20 Bolton le Sands Holy Trinity – Grade11*
21 Blackburn St Luke with St Philip
22 Layton St Mark
23 Thornton le Fylde Christ Church
24 Fleetwood St Nicholas
25 Little Thornton St John
Closed churches are the responsibility for the care and maintenance of a closed church rests with the Diocesan Board of Finance during the time that a use is being sought following closure. There are currently very few closed churches in the Diocese of Blackburn and we are not aware that there has been lead roof theft from any closed church in Blackburn Diocese in the years from 2012. We are aware of one earlier theft of lead from the roof of a former church building in the Great Harwood area of Accrington. This building has since been demolished and the site sold for residential development.
Caroline Spelman: From the records held centrally by the Church Commissioners, Closed Churches Division of the four dioceses mentioned only two closed churches were sold in 2014, both in the Diocese of Manchester, Primarily for use for nursery, playschool and other educational purposes, but not to named institutions.
Very few Church of England church buildings are closed for regular public worship in any year and where such buildings are closed, the duty placed on the Diocese and the Church Commissioners is to seek a suitable use for the building.
In 2014, in addition to the two closed church buildings mentioned above a further 14 closed Church of England buildings were sold and 3 leased across England: 5 for community purposes; 3 for use as a monument; 5 for residential use; and 4 for worship by other Christian bodies.
Caroline Spelman: The Diocese of Blackburn works closely with ‘Together Lancashire’, a church-linked social action network run by Church Urban Fund. According to ‘together Lancashire’ there are currently around 36 food banks in the diocese of Blackburn, of which 6 are Trussell Trust foodbanks (Blacburn, Fylde, Ribble Valley, Morecombe Bay, Skelmserdale and Ormskirk). These food banks handed out an estimated 35,000 food parcels in 2014.
Nearly all these initiatives are church-led (though not necessarily Church of England) projects. A directory and map of food banks in Lancashire (including the unitary authorities of Blackpool and Blackburn & Darwen) is available at: http://www.cuf.org.uk/node/618257
Separately, a Church in Action survey of Church of England clergy, which was published in January 2015, included a series of questions about church support for food banks. 1,812 church leaders took part in the survey. Of the 39 responses from Blackburn diocese:
- 31 churches (80%) were involved in some way in supporting a local food bank
- 6 offered church premises for the food bank
- 11 were helping to manage a food bank
- 14 were providing volunteers
- 29 were collecting food
Churches: Food Banks
Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central): To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to support communities to the demand for Church-run food banks. 
- 81% of the 16,000 Church of England parishes are offering support to a food bank with two-thirds involved in running or operating a food bank,
- 76% of churches collect food for a local food bank,
- 39% provide volunteers,
- 29% help to manage one,
- 22% give out vouchers
- 14% offer the use of their premises.
More information about the work of the Church of England and our involvement with foodbanks can be found in the following Church Urban Fund report: Church in Action