“The rain came down and the tax went up”

Leading General Synod is a rare moment of frivolity, Martin Dales has just got the entire chamber to sing the above words to the tune of “The wise man built his house upon the rock”. The chorus came as he opened a debate on Church Water Bills, and in particular the way that water companies are levying charges on non-profit organisations (which were previously exempted from the normal commercial water rates) which would see some churches being literally bankrupted.

The full text of the motion proposed is as follows:

That this Synod, concerned about the effect on many parishes of sudden, massive rise in water charges for churches, request HM Government to remind OFWAT of its obligations to ensure that water companies adhere to the clear guidance given by the Secretary of State for the Environment in 2000, which states that “there are many non-household users who are not businesses….including places of worship….and it would be inappropriate to charge all nonhousehold customers as if they were businesses”.’

There are some interesting amendments, but I can’t see this one even vaguely failing to pass.

15:00 – Synod is now debating an amendment by TimothyCox that strengthens the motion to read:

That this Synod, concerned about the devastating impact of massive rises in the sewerage charges for places of worship, charities, not-for-profit clubs and voluntary organisations, request HM Government to issue new guidance to OFWAT and the water companies to:
(a) treat not-for-profit organisations, charities, places of worship, community halls etc differently from businesses and provide concessionary rates for surface and foul water drainage for these bodies; and
(b) spread the cost of highways drainage solely upon for-profit organisations.”

15:15 – “It’s a poll tax that’s round the bend”. “That muddies the water”, replies John Sentamu. One has a sense that Synod has not yet heard the really corny one-liners…

15:17 – The amendment fails by a massive majority. It’s clear that Synod is angry about the prospect of high water bills, but not angry enough to suggest that churches shouldn’t pay anything for sewerage services.

15:25 – Synod moves to vote on the motion.

For : 282
Against : 0
Abstain : 3

No surprise there then, and we move onto the Uniqueness of Christ…

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