The Tower Handbook
Running a tower costs money. You may receive some of this from the PCC, but there will still be other expenses. The sort of items you may need to pay for include:
The most obvious sources are:
The fee is set by the church not you, but most church authorities will want it to be agreeable to you. Review the charge regularly with them, considering:
If you agree to change the fee, you may need to post date the change, since many churches have weddings booked months (or even years) ahead, and it would be unreasonable to increase the fee after they have agreed it with the couple.
In some towers all of it does and in others none does. Most towers are somewhere in between these extremes. If a lot goes into the funds, you will have plenty to spend either on worthy causes like restoration appeals or on running costs like outings. On the other hand, if all the wedding ringing is done by a small minority because the rest are always unavailable this can seem unfair. Many towers rely for much of the wedding ringing on their younger members, who are very appreciative of the extra pocket money. When you review the charge for the bells, also review how it is distributed. Your AGM is a good time to do this, with your members and the priest or warden there.
Views are strongly divided over this. Traditionally there were few set charges, but more towers now set them. Some feel this ensures a sensible fee is paid while others feel donations should be voluntary, in the spirit of ringing being a voluntary church activity. Yet others feel that a realistic fee for the use of such expensive equipment would be far higher than anyone would want to pay, and charging a lower fee would wrongly suggest that the cost had been covered.
Many visiting peal bands will ask what the fee is and if you are the person letting them in it can be embarrassing if you have never thought about it. Many people feel that tower donations should be higher than they often are. If you do start to charge fees, it must be with the agreement of the church authorities. Perhaps this is another topic for an AGM to consider.
The idea of paying a fee for every practice you attend is another of those controversial issues. If you view ringing purely as a duty, then you may resent paying for it as well as giving up your time. If you see it as a pleasurable hobby, then you would expect to pay a significant fee for any other hobby, especially with an hour or two's use of such expensive equipment.
For most of us, ringing is both a pleasure and a duty. The choir and organist do not pay to sing and use the organ . If you accept the concept of steeplage, what level do you charge? Another difficult question. If the charge is too high, will you deter people from attending the practice? And anyway is it right that those who support the practice should pay while those who don't bother should not? Some towers have a charity box to which ringers (including visitors) are encouraged but not compelled to contribute. Giving money to charity seems a less emotive issue.
Choose a bank or building society that offers you the access you need and a reasonable rate of interest. Some bands choose to keep their fund within the PCC's account. This can be inconvenient and it is probably better to have a separate account under your control. You may be required to provide full reports as annexes to the PCC accounts, especially if your church is registered as a charity. Make sure that your PCC treasurer is happy with the way you do things.
This depends how the fund is set up. If the tower fund is a subdivision of the church accounts like the parish hall account or the maintenance account, then it is owned by the church. If the ringers' fund is a separate entity, it is effectively a 'club fund' where the members of the 'club' are the ringers and they collectively own the money. This situation is clearest where there is a proper constitution which will define such things, including what is to happen to the money in the (unlikely) event that the 'club' ceases to exist. See section 7.8 & section 7.9.
Even if your fund is separate, you will find there are some ties, especially if your PCC fund is registered as a charity. New rules for charities require them to submit more thorough accounts, including accounts for subsidiary activities. If your main source of income is wedding fees paid to you by the PCC and your main activity is in connection with the church, it would be hard to convince the charity commissioners that you were not such an activity. You do not need to give detailed accounts, just the main items. This does not imply PCC ownership, it is just a reporting requirement, but failure to comply could jeopardise the charity registration of your PCC.
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