On the afternoon of Thursday 21 February, the General Synod of the Church of England approved a new scheme for parochial fees which will be applicable for the years 2020 to 2024 inclusive. The voting was: For – 165; Against – 80; Abstention – 22. The actual 2020 fees will not be known until the August CPI inflation figures are published by the Office of National Statistics and processed by the church (see latest information). However, the revised scheme introduced a number of important changes which are summarized below.
The new scheme is regulated by The Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2019 which is described in the associated Explanatory Memorandum. The Order amends the Ecclesiastical Fees Measure 1986 (“the Measure”) and comes into operation on 1st January 2020. The Order prescribes the parochial fees payable for the period 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2024 in connection with marriages, funerals and burials and the erection of monuments in churchyards and in respect of other, miscellaneous matters.
The 1986 Measure provides for the parochial fees payable to diocesan boards of finance and parochial church councils to be prescribed by a Parochial Fees Order for up to 5 years. Increases can be prescribed by reference to a published index of price or earnings increases. Schedule A1 to the 1986 Measure sets out in a list the matters in respect of which fees may be prescribed. The 1986 Measure makes provision for that list to be amended by a “Scheduled Matters Amending Order”.
Amendments to Schedule A1 were previously made by Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Orders in 2012 and 2014. The 2014 Order, as well as making amendments to Schedule A1, prescribed parochial fees for the period 1st January 2015 to 31st December 2019. The 2019 Order: makes further amendments to Schedule A1 (i.e. the list of matters in respect of which parochial fees may be prescribed and explanatory notes on the list); and prescribes parochial fees for the period 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2024.
- The Archbishops’ Council proposed that no fees should be payable in respect of a funeral of a person aged under 18, instead of under 16 as at present; this aligns the CofE scheme to local authority burial and cremation fees;
- The Council also proposed that parochial fees include those occasions in which funerals take place in funeral directors’ chapels, and where burials take place in burial grounds other than churchyards or local authority cemeteries, for example woodland burial grounds. [See opinion: Burial and cremation: funerals in undertakers’ private chapels];
- The principles for setting the level of parochial fees are contained in Ecclesiastical Fees – Implementing the new legislation, GS 1813 and approved by the General Synod in 2011. These are reiterated in the Explanatory Note;
- A recalculation of the each of the parochial fees for which provision is currently made in the 2014 Order was found to be broadly in line with those payable for the year 2019. Consequently, the 2019 fees are to be used as the base figures for the new Order.
- Paragraph 11 explains that it would be more appropriate to use the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI) as the year-on-year escalator for the fees.
- the 2014 Order provides for a PCC to receive a fee (currently £30) when a funeral service takes place at a crematorium or cemetery. This payment is to cease; there is no clear justification for a PCC to receive a fee where a funeral takes place in a building or other place for which its has no responsibility, (unlike the position where a funeral takes place in a church or churchyard); furthermore, its administration (by funeral directors) is far from straightforward on account of the difficulties in identifying the PCC to whom the fee should go.
The Amending Order
Part 2 makes amendments to Schedule A1 of the 1986 Measure (the list of matters to which parochial fees relate and explanatory notes):
- the age under which no fees should be payable in respect of a funeral to persons is changed to 18, [Articles 3(2), (3) and (4)];
- Three new matters are added to the list under the heading “B. No Service in Church”; these cover the situation where a funeral takes place in a funeral director’s chapel and cover subsequent cremation and burial. [Article 3(3)];
- the definitions of “on a separate occasion”, “immediately preceding” and “following on” apply generally for the purposes of the list of matters in Part 1 of the Schedule, [Article 3(2)];
- the definition of “cemetery” in paragraph 6 is amended so that it ceases to be confined to burial grounds that are maintained by burial authorities and therefore covers other types of burial grounds, for example a woodland burial ground. [Article 3(5)];
Part 3 and Schedule 1 make provision prescribing the parochial fees for each of the years 2020 to 2024.
- The fees payable for the year 2020 will be the base figures increased by the percentage increase in CPI over 12 months as at August 2019.
- The relevant percentage figure will be published by the Office of National Statistics in September 2019 at which point Archbishops’ Council staff will carry out the necessary calculations and publish a table showing the fees that are payable for 2020.
- Should the CPI go down (i.e. if there is deflation) the fees payable will remain at the same level as in the previous year.
Schedule 2 contains incidental provisions that are to the same effect as those that were contained in the 2014 Order.
The Archbishops’ Council will publish a table each year showing the fees that are payable. A summary of the principal fees will be posted in L&RUK, as was the widely accessed Church of England parochial fees 2019. Since the revised fees are based upon information that will be available in September rather than October as at present, it was anticipated that the fees for the subsequent year would be available about one month sooner. See latest information.
As a consequence of the Registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Fees) (Amendment) and Multilingual Standard Forms Regulations 2018, SI 2018/1268 the fees for issuing a marriage certificate were increased from 16 February 2019; this is the date on which the EU Regulation 2016/1191 of 27 July 2016 came into force, “to promote the free movement of citizens by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents in EU countries”. This amendment has now been made to Note A4 of the Table of Parochial Fees 2019.
Update, 5 November 2019 – Parochial Fees for 2020
The Parochial Fees for 2020 were published on 5 November 2019 and are summarised in our post Church of England Parochial Fees 2020. These are based upon the formula in the Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2019 which was approved by General Synod on 21 February 2019, reported in our post Church of England Parochial Fees – Changes for 2020 to 2024. The fees for 2020 are based upon the August 2019 inflation figures announced by the Office for National Statistics on 18 September 2019.