Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill: Bishop of Bristol tables amendments on local authority grants to places of worship

On 24th May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in Grand Committee. The Bishop of Bristol tabled amendments to the bill that would remove the existing confusion in law on whether local authorities can offer grants to places of worship:

Amendment 485: 
After Clause 214, insert the following new Clause—

“Removal of prohibition on local authority from making grants to churches etc.

In section 8(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1894 (works to church property), omit “, not being property relating to affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity”.”


Member’s explanatory statement: This amendment would remove the prohibition concerning churches and ecclesiastical charities in section 8(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1894 and would ensure that local authorities’ spending power under section 8(1)(k) could be used to make grants to places of worship.

The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I am pleased to speak to my Amendments 485, 505, 510 and 512. I thank the Government for making time so soon after the conclusion of the debate on Monday. I declare my interests as a board member of the Church Commissioners, as set out in the register, and as the Church of England’s lead bishop for church buildings. Noble Lords will also recall the debate on Amendment 163, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, which took place earlier in Committee on 15 March.

I tabled these four amendments to clarify the issue of local authority funding responsibilities for all Christian churches, including parish churches. The Bill affords the opportunity to bring much-needed clarity to this issue and resolve a long-standing problem. I am delighted to say that these amendments have received strong cross-party support, and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for acting as sponsors. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, is unable to be in her place today, but I am assured of her continued support for these amendments.

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