Friday, 8 December 2006

Balancing the Books

At last evening's Finance Committee meeting, we set budgets for 2007, and indeed they made for grim reading. In 2005, for the very first time in its history, the Cathedral was in the black - that is, it paid its way, and ended up with a decent operating profit at the end of the year. It looks as though we shall manage this again in 2006. But for 2007 the forecast is touch-and-go, and we shall be lucky to break even.

Even though we project an increase in revenue (and we have set ourself a target of a 5% increase in donations, which will be a considerable challenge), costs have spiralled. Unavoidable maintenance work and other factors will push our expenses well above 2006 levels.

Undoubtedly, the main item of cost is the music; a professional choir and musical tradition such as ours does not come cheaply. We also need to ensure that all our staff are paid acceptable salaries. In addition, the cost of running a large building (and its associated complex) is spiralling. Obviously, we have to keep the fabric of the building in good repair, but heating and lighting are expensive, and legislation (about, for example, fire detection systems) means further unavoidable cost.

There are, as ever, two necessary courses of action. Firstly, we must control expenditure. That will mean examining all our costs in detail to control outgoings; that is good practice anyway, and something we are morally obliged to do, relying as we do on money given to us. Here, the good news is that for the first time, detailed accounts and budgets are available to us (that's an actual photograph of them above!), and these will have to be scrutinised strictly.

Secondly, we must raise revenue, and this is something one does with a heavy heart. It means returning to our generous donors - those who contribute to the Cathedral weekly - and asking for more. It means serious high-level fundraising, which is hard and distasteful work. And it means increasing the charges for those who use the Hall, or hold Concerts in the Cathedral, as well as maximizing our commercial activities.

I've written before of the pain of all this; as a priest, one's concerns should ideally be spiritual, not fiscal. But Christians live in the world, and if one cares about the Cathedral and its mission (which I do passionately), then we have a responsibility to safeguard it for the present and future. Hard work ahead, but some good advice available - and prayers to boost our endeavours.


Anonymous said...

Dear Monsignor Langham:


I wrote you an email dated 11 December 2006. I’m not sure if I sent it to the right email address so I decided to send it through your blog.

Repeating what I’ve written, I found your posts through the Catholic-blogdom grapevine and I enjoy the pictures of the cathedral which you have published. I visited the cathedral in my recent sojourn there six months ago and your pictures bring back wonderful memories of that place, especially of the numerous Masses that I attended there.

I read your blogpost dated 8 December 2006 wherein you stated the financial difficulties facing the Westminster Cathedral. I feel compelled to offer you some assistance. I am currently a partner in a start-up bookkeeping firm in Manila and I would like to offer our bookkeeping services for free.

If your current bookkeeping is done internally and costing you some money, perhaps our offer would be of interest to you. Hopefully, our free service would alleviate some of the financial burden you are currently facing. In order to offset the costs, perhaps you could refer our business to other local parishes or firms that would be interested in employing our very inexpensive service.

If you are interested in pursuing this particular venture with us, feel free to contact me via or through I might also be in London this coming February, perhaps we could meet to discuss this matter.

I, personally, don’t feel the need to have this published in your blog. I would just like to be assured that this reaches you. I ‘m looking forward to a favourable response and I’m, likewise, hoping that this letter did not come to you as strong and offensive. Thanks a lot.

Melanie Baricante

Anonymous said...

I think that the Cathedral looses money by people not paying for newspapers/magazines and by lighting votive candles and not paying for them. I have noticed that lights are kept burning uneccesarily and should be switched off, this would help cut down bills

Mark Langham said...

Dear Melanie
Tahnks so much for your e-mail and kind offer. Our books are at present kept by the Diocese (who do it for free), so we're not in any great need there. However, I am so grateful for your offer, and hope I will meet you when you are next in London.