Thursday, 11 June 2009

In the war zone

The surreal experience of the year so far was being briefed last night on the Charities Act 2006 in a seminar room at the Bishop Grosseteste University College in Lincoln while on the other side of large plate glass doors students taking part in some sort of war game variously dashing passed, diving for cover in the bushes and popping up to fire laser guns at each other. It felt close to what it must have been like to fiddle while Rome burns, paying attention to the new legal responsibilities of Parochial Church Councils while the coup was taking place.

I’ve touched before on the need for each PCC with an income of over £100 000 (which has previously enjoyed the status of an Excepted Charity) to register as a separate charity. At some point those with a lower level of income will also be drawn in.

Each PCC's Accounts already has to be prepared, independently examined, publically displayed, and a copy sent to the diocese, so the amount of extra work involved for thousands of parishes doesn’t really seem proportionate to the advantage of every PCC member’s name being available on the Charity Commission’s website and the Commission having a copy of the Accounts as well, but there it is. And it seemed a little tedious that each PCC would then need to get the Commissions’ permission each time it started to employ one of its members, which is only likely to be as Funding Officer, Parish Secretary, Organist or Sexton anyway.

The only one of the last four years where we’ve tripped over the £100 000 here was when we sold a Church Hall and I learnt that this didn’t count. We spent more than £100 000 last year, but income in the year was a safe £93 512. So I’ve tidied all the paperwork away this morning, aware that this is a little bit like burying my head in the sand as we probably have to do something in 2010 or 2011.

Each PCC member would then have to sign a declaration that he or she is fully aware of the PCC’s ‘objects as set out in the governing document’ so I have at least printed out what the relevant Measure says for the new file. Some PCC members may be worried about the financial liabilities of trusteeship, so I have also dug out the relevant paragraph in the ‘Legal Opinions’ file which makes it clear that a PCC is a Corporate Body and individual members can’t be held liable for any of its debts.

Meanwhile, this further animal from the Cathedral’s great dividing screen looks like a cat to me (perhaps it is), and shows further evidence of the mediaeval paint with which the screen would have been covered.

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