|An artist's impression of Cathedral Gardens|
Why not everything in these gardens is lovely
As work starts on the removal of an ancient wall, the first stage of the controversial Cathedral Gardens scheme, a number of questions are raised about its funding in these times of recession.
The Diocese of Leicester seems quite happy to accept a £1.9 million grant from Leicester City Council, at a time when the council is proposing to cut £2.2 million from the single persons' homeless budget and almost £1 million from the homeless families budget.
All this at a time when those on benefits or low income are being further stretched by changes in housing benefits and council tax credit, as well as the so called "spare bedroom tax".
Of course, the diocese will argue that the £1.9 million is from a separate budget, but it comes from taxation, including from those who are really struggling at the moment on low incomes and benefits.
It should also be pointed out that accepting the grant puts the diocese in the position of not being able to speak out against the city council's cuts and the waste of money on projects such as Jubilee Square.
Of the remaining £1.1 million needed to complete Cathedral Gardens, through donations and grants, the question needs to be asked, why can't the diocese's Board of Finance find this, or even fund the project outright?
According the most recent accounts obtained from the Charities Commission, the diocese has in the region of £70 million of assets and investments, including £33 million in long-term investments.
The assets of the cathedral are not available, but are likely to be substantial.
With the removal of the ancient wall at the cathedral, perhaps now is the time for the removal of the wall of silence from the diocese,It should explain how public funding of Cathedral Gardens can be morally justified in these austere times and consider whether the project should be postponed.
RJ Bingham, Leicester