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Peterborough Cathedral's financial woes lead to church-wide review

A financial crisis at Peterborough Cathedral has prompted the Church of England to launch an investigation into finances across the UK.

There have been 14 redundancies at the Cambridgeshire landmark which also needed an emergency loan to ensure its survival.

Visitors and worshippers in Peterborough donate £300,000 pounds a year to the cathedral. But that does not even cover the a quarter of the cathedral's running costs.

The Acting Dean of the cathedral, The Rev Canon Jonathan Baker, said a lack of financial knowledge among the church community had been its downfall.

Peterborough Cathedral. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

"There was a lack of discipline over some of the expenditure. I think there was a lack of training for some of the people in charge.

"For clergy, we don't have business experience, most of us, and we were being very successful raising large amounts of money for one-off projects but that was disguising the fact that we were struggling to pay the heating bills and keep the doors open."

– The Rev Canon Jonathan Baker, Acting Dean, Peterborough Cathedral.

It is a problem facing many of the country's cathedrals - which is the reason the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have set up a cathedrals working group to look at the issue.

They want to make sure the churches have strong foundations that will keep them running for many years to come.

"[Cathedrals] are a vital part of our heritage and make an incalculable contribution to the life of the communities that they serve.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the working group to look at the different aspects of how cathedrals work, and to ensure that the legislation and procedures they use are fit for purpose for their mission in the 21st century."

– The Bishop of Stepney and the Dean of York.
The daily running costs for our cathedrals. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

Peterborough Cathedral knows it needs to move with the times - and find increasingly imaginative ways to bring in money.

When the monks built this place 900 years ago, they knew it wasn't going to survive on prayer.

"There's always been a relationship with donors and benefactors and business because these places are phenomenally expensive.

"Prayer and money can co-exist perfectly comfortably. Of course, we have to make sure we get the balance right. "

– The Rev Canon Jonathan Baker, Acting Dean, Peterborough Cathedral.

It has led to some impressive sights at the cathedral - including a bishop abseiling down its west front this time last year.

A bishop abseil's down Peterborough Cathedral in 2016. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

The latest project is a new tearoom, which will open on Easter Monday, and the diocese makes the most of its secular attractions including the tomb of Henry Eighth’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

But it still struggles to attract as many visitors as cathedrals like York. Stuart Orme, Peterborough's Director of Operations, believes that is at least partly down to the city's reputation.

"We recognise Peterborough isn't perhaps seen as a great tourist destination at the moment - but we actually think that's rather a shame because the city's got one of the richest stories of any place in the country.

"We've been here 3,500 years as a city which is longer than London, Norwich or York. We have got a huge amount of remarkable visitor attractions."

– Stuart Orme, Director of Operations, Peterborough Cathedral.

Ely Cathedral now charges visitors an entry fee. It raises money, and its profile, by being used as a film-set.

And while Norwich Cathedral, which has a large property portfolio, managed to end the financial year with a cash surplus, it is one of the exceptions.

Spiritual sanctuaries need to find a way to survive in the world of business.

That will mean keeping an eye on the bottom line at the same time as looking to the heavens for guidance.

Watch Claire McGlassons full report below.