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Better knowledge of the cultural heritage – a review of the Church Antiquarian Compensation (2018:28)

Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) was tasked by the government to review the use and impact of the Church Antiquarian Compensation. The review aims to provide a basis for the inspection that will be conducted in 2019. 

The central government has made payments of approximately SEK 5.6 billion to the Church of Sweden as part of church antiquarian compensation between 2002 and 2017. The compensation is based on regulations in the Heritage Conservation Act (1988:950) regarding protection of cultural heritage. 

The Church of Sweden is responsible for preserving and maintaining ecclesiastic cultural heritage and for the distribution of the antiquarian compensation. The county administrative boards monitor and issue permits related to ecclesiastic cultural heritage. The Swedish National Heritage Board is to run and support the county administrative boards in their work to implement the Heritage Conservation Act. The county administrative boards and National Heritage Board must have the opportunity to issue statements regarding the allocation of the Church Antiquarian Compensation. 

The system is satisfactory

No documentation is available to systematically assess the impact of the Church Antiquarian Compensation. However, Statskontoret sees no sign that there are any large care and maintenance requirements that are not currently being met. 

The county administrative boards believe that the Church of Sweden’s management of the compensation is more professional than previously. The Church of Sweden has developed a handbook for both the dioceses and the county administrative boards to use when allocating the compensation. The Church of Sweden has also started to rectify several of the shortcomings noted during previous inspections. For example, they have established a significant antiquarian skills base on national and regional levels and have decided to introduce a new system for the allocation of Church Antiquarian Compensation funds. 

Hence, Statskontoret believes that the system is satisfactory and there are no short-term grounds to conduct comprehensive changes to the system. 

Statskontoret recommends that the Church of Sweden intensifies the work to identify and survey where care and maintenance are needed

Statskontoret believes that the current system places the identification of necessary care and maintenance at risk. This is due to a lack of a general view of the state of ecclesiastic cultural heritage. Furthermore, the current allocation system means that the Church of Sweden’s organisational needs risk gaining an unnecessary weight in the distribution of church antiquarian compensation, from a preservation perspective. 

Therefore, Statskontoret recommends that the Church of Sweden works with its parishes both nationally and regionally to identify the objects in need of care and maintenance and obtain a general overview. 

The Church of Sweden has issued several decisions aiming to improve the overview of the maintenance of its properties. However, Statskontoret believes that the Church of Sweden needs to develop a national system to survey the need for care and maintenance. The Church of Sweden has taken a step in this direction by issuing a decision on a new allocation system that builds on needs indicators that steer the distribution of the church antiquarian compensation. Nevertheless, Statskontoret considers that there is still a lot of work to be done. 

The Church Antiquarian Compensation is unevenly distributed but the differences have diminished somewhat over time

The distribution of the Church Antiquarian Compensation is unevenly distributed among the dioceses; however, the differences have reduced somewhat over time. Statskontoret believes that many of these differences are due to the dioceses and county administrative boards having different approaches and that the application-based allocation system places a large amount of responsibility for the applications with the parishes. The parishes all have different conditions for applying for compensation. Of course, they receive support from the diocese, but to differing degrees. 

The Church of Sweden has decided upon a new allocation process that aims to reduce the significance of applications on how the compensation is distributed. 

Central government has an unclear role in collaboration with the Church of Sweden

The central government and the Church of Sweden collaborate in national and regional consultation groups. We see no sign that there are any differing opinions between the Church of Sweden and government agencies. However, many government agencies feel that the purpose and role of the consultation groups are unclear, as well as their role in the work with Church Antiquarian Compensation. Many county administrative boards have requested an evaluation of the consultation groups and government guidance on how the compensation should be distributed. 

The county administrative boards should prioritise the monitoring of church cultural heritage more

At present, the county administrative boards invest small resources for monitoring ecclesiastic cultural heritage. Statskontoret believes this is unfortunate, as monitoring is one way to identify shortcomings that may otherwise go unnoticed. Therefore, Statskontoret believes the county administrative boards need to increase the priority of monitoring. Statskontoret believes this is a more pressing task than participating in the work to distribute the church antiquarian compensation. 

The Swedish National Heritage Board should survey the support and guidance needed by the county administrative boards

In recent years, the role of the Swedish National Heritage Board has changed and much of the previous expertise on church cultural heritage has now been phased out. Statskontoret believes there are arguments for and against the National Heritage Board investing more resources into work with church cultural heritage. 

Statskontoret believes there is good reason for the Swedish National Heritage Board to survey the needs of the county administrative boards for support and guidance. In addition, the agency should suggest how the support can be reinforced should they believe it to be necessary. 

Need for better overview of the system

The decrease in members of the Church of Sweden and the fact that there are disused churches may? impact the conditions for preserving church cultural heritage in the long term. Statskontoret believes that so far, these social changes have not had significant consequences for preserving ecclesiastic cultural heritage. However, the changes may mean (imply?) that the system needs to be changed in a more fundamental way later. Hence, Statskontoret feels that the government should follow the development and consider conducting a review of the system, if necessary. 

Should there be a review, the purpose and level of the church antiquarian compensation should be analysed. There are several reasons for the church antiquarian compensation. The compensation is to provide parishes with the   necessary means to care for and maintain church cultural heritage and compensate for the limitations to the disposition rights and extra costs incurred from regulations in the Cultural Heritage Act. Statskontoret is of the opinion that current legislation contains a tension between a preservation and a user perspective of how the church antiquarian compensation is to be used. 

In order to determine the level of church antiquarian compensation, more aspects need to be considered and analysed. Current compensation is calculated based on extra costs that arise from regulations in the Cultural Heritage Act. The size of these extra costs is affected by both the Church’s organisational needs and the antiquarian needs. If the compensation is to be calculated in the same way, these needs must be surveyed and analysed. The central government also needs to consider what constitutes reasonable compensation for the restrictions to the ability of the Church of Sweden to utilise their property, as the regulations in the Cultural Heritage Act stipulate. 

A review should also analyse the roles of government agencies, as they are unclear. 

Furthermore, the review should include an analysis of how the accessibility target should be formulated. In an agreement between the central government and the Church of Sweden, it is the duty of the Church of Sweden to make ecclesiastic cultural heritage available to all, at least to the same extent as when the agreement was reached. In the report, Statskontoret shows that the accessibility target can be interpreted and measured in different ways.