Presbytery Mission Plan Stewardship Surgery - Question and Answers

For the congregation of Cramond Kirk

The following is extracted from a paper provided by the Church of Scotland Stewardship and Finance Committee and helps to answer some of the questions being raised by congregations, including Cramond Kirk, over possible unions with other churches. Our Finance Committee are keen this is shared with you and I hope you will find it helpful background information. It is likely we will be seeking a union within the next few years but no decision to unite will be made without the congregation being involved. If you have any questions please contact the Kirk Office on 336 2036 or at office@cramondkirk.org.uk

Edith Butler

Session Clerk

8th April 2022

 

THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND

STEWARDSHIP AND FINANCE DEPARTMENT

Online Stewardship Surgery

28 February 2022

Questions and Answers

This handout has been prepared following the online Stewardship Surgery held on 28 February 2022.  Around 95 people joined the event and submitted questions in writing or on camera.  A number of questions have been merged to avoid duplication.

 

Q1

What guidance is available for Church Treasurers on the financial implications of a proposed basis of union with one or more other congregations?  Concerns include OSCR, Legacies, Endowments, Gift Aid/GASDS Recovery, Water Rates Relief, PAYE/NI/Pensions, Giving to Grow, Charities Reporting/Auditing and the possible requirement for a full time Treasurer.

A1

For the purposes of Charity legislation, a union is generally treated as if one (or more) of the congregations is ceasing and one is continuing under a new name but retaining its charity number and incorporating the ceased congregation(s) including a transfer of assets.  There are many considerations including:

Legacies and Restricted Funds

These matters are covered in Question 5.

OSCR

The Law Department notifies OSCR of which charity/charities to remove from the register, so there is no need for the congregation to do this.

Congregational Accounts and Reporting

During the year of re-organisation, accounts are required for all congregations involved in the union.

Where a congregation’s number is being removed from the charity register, the accounts should be prepared up to the date of union and submitted to the Stewardship and Finance Department only; the accounts do not require to be submitted to OSCR.

The charity number of one of the congregations involved in the union will be retained.  In the current year, these accounts will include the charity’s annual income plus that of the ceasing congregations (ie those losing their previous charity number) for the period from the date of the union.  There is no requirement to consolidate the comparative detail; the comparatives should remain as stated in the previous year.

Banking and Bank Accounts

The bank accounts of all congregations involved in the union should remain open for a short time following the union to allow for the re-organisation of standing orders, name changes etc.  Careful consideration must be given during this period to the controls surrounding the access to the accounts.  Banking signatories should be addressed as a matter of priority.  The balances remaining at the date of closure of the accounts should be transferred to the united congregation.

Giving to Grow

The impact of a union on a congregation’s contribution under the forthcoming Giving to Grow scheme will very much depend on specific circumstances.  The detailed Regulations for the Giving to Grow scheme are due to be considered by the General Assembly in May 2022.  More detail will be issued to Treasurers in due course.

Q2

How is a decision taken as to which congregation’s charity number goes forward in a new union?

A2

This is a matter for discussion between the relevant Kirk Sessions and the Presbytery as part of the basis of union considerations.  OSCR will ultimately be required to agree the decision.

Q3

Are we likely to see the introduction of full-time treasurers in large unions in the future?

A3

There is no plan to introduce paid treasurer posts in congregations.  Whilst there may be some congregations who choose to resource such a role, many will not be in a position to do so.  One treasurer in the online event commented that she had gathered a small team together to share the load when a union had taken place.

Q4

In the case of a congregation moving from one linkage to another linkage, will the accounts of that congregation be split as a result of this reorganisation?

A4

In the case of a linkage, a congregation’s accounts should not have been merged in any way with the other congregation within the linkage, as the constituent congregations continue to hold their own charity number status and their accounts should be quite separate.

Q5

a)  What happens to legacies left to a specific congregation when that congregation or the building it worshipped in may no longer exist e.g. due to closure or union?

b)  Will church members be advised on how to amend any such specific legacies they propose, should they wish and, if necessary, after any such plans are confirmed?

c)  Has the church already researched or investigated how future legacy income might likely be affected by such plans or does it intend to?

d)  Is there a plan or advice to give to mission districts/groupings on when and how to address legacy matters around congregational adjustments?

A5

  1. In the case of a union, the uniting congregations do not lose their legal identities (this is not the same as the loss of a charity number as discussed in Q1).  That means any restricted funds from previous legacies simply transfer to the new united congregation and any new legacies which are left to one of the former constituent congregations can still be paid over to the united congregation.

In the case of a dissolution, any legacy left to the Congregation which has not yet become payable is lost as the congregation ceases to exist.  Restricted funds have to be reorganised prior to dissolution.  Any subsequent legacies cannot be paid as there is no entity to receive the funds.

dissolution can also produce difficulties with regard to the titles of heritable properties and properties and funds held which are subject to third party trusts.  A union, on the other hand, usually produces no such difficulties as the uniting congregations do not lose their legal identities.

Please get in touch with the Law and Stewardship & Finance Departments early in the process; the sooner we are notified the more likely we are able to help.

b)  The legacy leaflet we produce encourages members and supporters both to make a Will and to update it regularly to ensure that their wishes are carried out. 

We encourage Kirk Sessions to agree their own policy on how potential legacy income will be spent and to encourage unrestricted gifts since the needs of a church will change over time.

In the case of unions, Kirk Sessions should be keeping members informed of the various implications arising from the union, so that any intended legacy is properly worded or amended to ensure the intentions of the giver are realised.

c)  We have not actively researched how future legacy income might be affected by Presbytery plans, but we can see that there could be an impact.  Legacies are gifts which are given freely. It may be that there will be people feeling disenfranchised and hurt, and those people may well choose to reconsider their intentions.  Office-bearers, however, do have a responsibility to support the joint vision for the future and to speak positively of the opportunities which can come from a new approach and fresh thinking.

d)  We can provide guidance for Presbyteries to help them consider the various issues involved in relation to adjustments.

Q6

We are a large rural parish with three churches. One church is being sold and that will leave a grade A and B church. These churches require a lot of maintenance. With a congregation of just over 100, we are now at a point where we do not have the monies to pay our M&M contributions or maintain the churches. We are trying to increase income and reduce expenditure.  Where do we go from here? What help can you offer churches like us?

A6

If your congregation knows that it will struggle to maintain the payment of its M&M contributions, please contact the finance staff as soon as possible at sfadmin@churchofscotland.org.uk and contact your Presbytery.  Congregations require a dispensation from Presbytery if Standing Orders relating to M&M contributions are being amended or cancelled.

There are often a range of measures that can be adopted.  For example:

  • some congregations may have Reserves to fall back on;
  • restricted funds can be reorganised;
  • fabric fund revenue accounts held by the General Trustees on behalf of congregations can be used to assist with fabric, heat & light and insurance costs;
  • the Stewardship Team would be happy to discuss how a stewardship programme in your congregation may help increase income and regular giving and reduce expenditure;
  • increased income from Gift Aid and GASDS;
  • seeking external funding to support elements of the congregation’s work.

Please get in touch with us for an early discussion if you are concerned about your congregation’s finances or future sustainability.

Q7

If a manse is let, does the rental income come direct to the congregation or is it placed into the Consolidated Fabric Fund?

A7

If the manse is held by the General Trustees, then the rental income goes into the revenue account of the Consolidated Fabric Fund and is available to the congregation to draw down, following the normal procedure.

If the manse is held locally, then the rental income will go straight to the congregation.

Q8

Is there any likelihood that the rules may change in relation to the Consolidated Fabric Fund to allow these to be used for general purposes?

A8

The General Trustees are looking to assess and evaluate how restricted funds might be used more flexibly but the issues around this are complex.  It is expected that an update will come to the General Assembly of 2022.  It is worth noting that locally held fabric funds may be ‘designated’ rather than ‘restricted’ and, where this is the case, could be used for general purposes.

Comment

Easy Fundraising is a good way of getting extra money with people buying more items online.  www.easyfundraising.org.uk

 

Church of Scotland Stewardship Team

16 March 2022

Email: stewardship@churchofscotland.org.uk

 

Notes Regarding Accounting Procedures for a Union (Revised March 2014)

The following notes have been prepared for the guidance of Congregational Treasurers who are involved with a union of two or more congregations.  The comments below are of a general nature and it should be noted that circumstances can vary from one case to another.  On some occasions a union might involve two (or more) congregations which have already been linked to each other, whereas on other occasions the union can involve two (or more) congregations which have had no previous linking.

For simplicity the remainder of this document is prepared on the basis of only two congregations being united.

Charity legislation now treats a union as if one of the congregations is ceasing and the other is continuing under a new name and incorporating the ceased congregation. It is therefore necessary prior to the union to decide which of the congregations will be treated as the “ceasing” congregation for this purpose and which will be treated as the “continuing” congregation. Financial accounts should be prepared for the “ceasing” congregation up to the date of the union with accounts for the full year being prepared for the “continuing” congregation which will include the combined activity for both congregations from the date of the union. These accounts will require to be independently examined in the normal way.

Under the requirements of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) to submit an annual return along with accounts each year the above procedure will mean that OSCR will issue an annual return for the united congregation at the end of the year which should be completed as normal and returned with the accounts for the “continuing” congregation which will also include the united results from the date of the union.

The accounts for the “ceasing” congregation covering the period up to the date of the union will not require to be lodged with OSCR as the charity will be removed from the Register by OSCR when they are notified of the union. (OSCR will be notified by the Law Department of the Church of Scotland and it is not necessary for church treasurers to contact OSCR).

The simplest way to deal with bank accounts is to keep the accounts for both congregations open for a short period after the date of the union so that standing orders, gift aid claims and other automatic receipts and payments can still be received and paid until the necessary details have been changed. Eventually the account of the “ceasing” congregation can be closed with the balance transferred to the “continuing” congregation’s account which will become the account for the new united congregation. Arrangements should also be made with the bank to change the name of the continuing bank account to that of the united congregation and also to change the account signatories if necessary. After an appropriate time, any remaining balance on the “ceasing” congregation’s bank account can be transferred to the united bank account with the former account being closed.

As far as the Congregational Ledger (maintained by the General Treasurer) is concerned it should be noted that following the union there will be a new congregation with a new reference number allocated to it.  Money can still be processed through either of the present congregational reference numbers.  Each payment should be accompanied by a remittance advice clearly showing to which reference the payment should be credited, and which items are covered in the payment.  At the end of the calendar year the total requirements should be allocated between the ledger accounts for the congregations and similarly the payments received should in total equal the combined requirements.  If the combined figures balance then adjustments can either be made to the requirements, or the payments received can be reallocated.  Strictly speaking the requirements for each existing congregation will be a requirement figure of so much up to the date of union, and the appropriate requirement for the united charge will be that due as from the date of the union.

As far as the Ministries & Mission Allocation to Central Funds is concerned, it is normal in such cases for the Income Base amounts of the existing individual congregations to be added together to produce a combined figure for the new united congregation.  It is often the case that not all members of the existing congregations decide to become members of the united congregation so that there is a reduction in income after a union.  An allowance may be made against the combined incomes. Proposed allocations will be prepared by the General Treasurer’s department and provided to the Presbytery who will arrange for approval after discussion with local parties.

Efforts should be made to ensure that payments to Life & Work etc. which relate to the pre-union situation are remitted promptly in order that ledger accounts can be closed.

Further information can be obtained from the Finance Manager-Congregational Finance at the Church of Scotland Offices at 121 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4YN. 

Enquiries regarding congregational requirements can be addressed to the Congregational Payments Section in the Stewardship and Finance Department.