York Minster’s status as a ‘going concern’ at risk

YORK Minster’s status as a ‘going concern’ could be threatened if the pandemic crisis continues for too long, officials have warned.

The depth of the crisis facing the cathedral following a ‘devastating’ loss of income last spring is laid bare in a report to the Minster’s Chapter by the audit and risk committee, an extract of which has just been published in the 2019 annual report and accounts.

It stated: “It is clear that, depending on the amount of time the crisis continues, the ‘going concern’ status of the Minster could be threatened.”

It said such areas of high and longer term risk were being addressed but it would take time for financial operations to be brought back into line.

The annual report said:“The temporary closure which took place on 17 March had a devastating impact on our income, with visitor income, gift aid, donations, plate collections, retail turnover, event income, learning group income, tourist group income, investment income and property rental income all being negatively impacted.”

It said the Chapter, which runs the Minster, was satisfied that appropriate steps were being put in place to limit exposure to this reduction in income and the Cathedral had ‘the ability to continue as a going concern for at least twelve months from the approval of these financial statements.’

The Dean of York, the Right Reverend Jonathan Frost, said that as a result of the ‘dramatic and sudden’ drop in income, the Chapter had had to restructure staff and re-prioritise work to reduce costs while focussing on the core purpose of worship and welcome.

He said the first phase in the rebalancing of its finances culminated last June in the announcement that the Minster School was set to close at the end of the summer term.

He said that prior to the pandemic, the school had been subject to a concerted effort by Chapter to turn it around, with plans to invest £750,000 a year for three years to give the school ‘breathing space to rise out of its financial deficit and to start recruiting new pupils.’

He said: “The loss of our visitor income means that Chapter cannot afford to continue to fund the school.”

The report said that in the year ended December 31, 2019, the Minster had a net surplus of £332,000,compared with £119,000 in 2018, and the Dean said that visitor numbers had grown in 2019, with totals, including worshippers, exceeding 700,000.

He said that in the development of its strategic plan for 2015-20, the Chapter had acknowledged the risk of potential over dependence on visitor income and the need to diversify income streams.

The report also said that the significant fall on stock markets in 2020 had resulted in an 11.3 per cent reduction in the Minster’s investment portfolios.

It said that even before the first lockdown was imposed, visitor numbers and income had been down in January and February of last year because of flooding in the city, and visitor numbers would take time to recover.

The report also warned that there was insufficient state support or church-wide capital funding to ensure the conservation of cathedral medieval fabric and chapter was lobbying various potential funding bodies.

York Press | News