Governance of Church of England cathedrals: the draft report

We have already noted the Church of England’s online consultation on the draft report of the Cathedrals Working Group. The report’s principal recommendations are as follows:

Mission and ecclesiology

There are many ways to improve relationships and joint-working between cathedrals, bishops, dioceses and National Church Institutions [21].


The responsibilities and accountabilities of various cathedral bodies and roles are unclear or ambiguous under the current governance arrangements set out in the Cathedrals Measure. This should be addressed as follows:

– retaining Chapter as the governing body, but with enhanced membership and a majority of ‘non-executive’ members, at least two-thirds of whom would be laity;

– retaining the dean as chair of Chapter;

– a clear separation of governance and management, involving the establishment of a Senior Executive Team to oversee day-to-day cathedral operations;

– strengthening the Chapter’s engagement with finance, audit and risk management activities;

– establishing a quinquennial assurance review of processes and controls;

– enabling the diocesan bishop to appoint a senior independent lay member to sit on Chapter as Vice-Chair;

– removing the confusion over the role and expectations made of Cathedral Councils by reorienting their focus on stakeholder engagement and removing any legislative function; and

– registering cathedrals with the Charity Commission through bringing them under the Charities Act [22].

Leadership and management

Good governance only works effectively if it is supported by a clear and robust management structure. Many of the strategic, operational and financial challenges in cathedrals stem from issues around management focus and effectiveness. We propose addressing these as follows:

– all cathedral clergy and staff will come under the authority of the Dean;

– ministerial Development Review requirements for deans and residentiary canons will be revised and updated to ensure that the management structure and processes operate effectively;

– chapters will establish a Nominations and Development committee, with a significant brief to review and address the skills and experience necessary for effective governance and management; and

– proper attention should be given to appointment, induction, training and development of Chapter and staff members [23].


Without robust financial management, the sustainability of cathedrals is at risk. Detailed recommendations include:

– prioritising the recruitment and retention of a suitably qualified Chief Financial Officer and supporting staff;

– establishing a central support service for cathedrals to access skills that they may not have in-house;

– establishing, at a minimum, a Finance, Audit and Risk committee with an appropriately qualified independent chair: where local circumstances and resources permit, it would be best practice to have an Audit and Risk Committee separate from the Finance Committee;

– creating robust internal and external reporting structures;

– selecting auditors from a nationally-endorsed panel; and

– a range of changes to the funding streams from the Church Commissioners in the interests of flexibility, simplification, fairness and innovation [24].


Major buildings projects play a large part in the life of many cathedrals but represent the largest episodic financial risk that cathedrals face. Before embarking on major projects, Chapters need to ensure:

– that they have carried out a skills audit and gap analysis;

– that they have established effective project governance and management structures; and

– that they have access to high-quality advice [26].

Collaboration between cathedrals and the National Church Institutions is valued and necessary. Work needs to be done at national level to assess the overall national repair and maintenance liabilities of cathedrals. The Government should be approached to begin a dialogue about state contribution to a national UK cathedral fabric fund [27].


While progress has been made in the past few years, the Working Group remains concerned that the cathedral sector as a whole is lagging behind the rest of the Church on safeguarding. It endorses the proposed ‘whole church’ approach to safeguarding being led by the National Safeguarding Team and expects cathedrals to work jointly with their diocese in order to achieve it. There remain failings in safeguarding practice for cathedrals that must be addressed as a matter of urgency [28].


It has already been pointed out that the proposal for the reform of cathedral chapters appears to be that the Dean and Residentiary Canons should be in a minority and that, of the remainder appointed by the Bishop, at least threequarters should be laypeople who, though they must be Christians, will not necessarily need to be Anglicans.

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