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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 22:17 GMT
Churches could 'double as discos'
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey
Dr Carey wants the government to pay for repairs
The Archbishop of Canterbury says cash-strapped churches could double as discos in return for government funding.

Dr George Carey is asking the government to make a substantial contribution to the up-keep of church buildings.

He told BBC News he would be happy to see churches more widely used.

As some churches are already used to accommodate youth clubs and police posts, they could also provide venues for discos, Dr Carey added.

The Church of England spends more than 120m a year maintaining church buildings - some dating from Saxon times.

Tiny congregations

Repairs to its 9,000 Grade I listed buildings must be carried out to a high standard.

Lobbying by the Archbishop has led to the Chancellor cutting VAT on church repairs to five percent.

English Heritage and Lottery grants also fund repairs.

But with tiny congregations, many churches cannot meet the bills.

Dr Carey says the maintenance bill remains a crushing burden.

Joint responsibility

He believes the Church should not be expected to take sole responsibility for "over 16,000 parish churches, full of social history, local history, lovingly kept up by generations of Christian people".

The burden of maintaining church buildings "should be borne by everybody", the Archbishop explained.

Elsewhere in Europe churches receive generous grants.

In France, churches built before 1900 are maintained by the state.

See also:

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