This page introduces the findings of the Changing Market Towns Project Mid-Term Review, including the full report and the CMT Delivery Plan in response to that report.
Click on the following links to jump to the relevant section on the page.
- Briefing paper from Chair of the Board, Hugh McCurdy
- Summary of recommendations and Implementation Plans
- Full Report and Delivery Plan
2021 was an eventful year in all our lives. This was also the case in our Market Towns Project.
Over the course of the year, we witnessed a number of significant changes - not least struggling to emerge from Covid-19 lockdowns, thinking what lies ahead for us as a church and significant changes in the leadership of the project with Mike Booker’s departure and Jon Randall’s appointment.
As a result of all this, the Market Towns Project Board asked an outside consultant to undertake a midterm review of the project. John Truscott was appointed and in December the Project Board received his Report.
The Report holds a mirror to the project, applauds the projects ambition and points to the early successes before March 2020 when Covid-19 hit us all. The report acknowledges the complexity of having a project that is both Diocesan initiated and locally led, and the impact that Covid-19 has had on all sorts of relationships and initiatives.
The Board has accepted the report in full and most significantly the recommendations within the report.
On December 20th  the Project Board’s Chair, the Archdeacon of Huntingdon and Wisbech, along with Jon Randall, held a briefing for all those working in the Project.
Theses briefings can be found below and are a summary of three key sections of the report, notable the –
- achievements so far
- areas for improvement
- recommendations going ahead
Readers will see the progress made this month and I am very grateful to the Central Team of Jon Randall, Martin Kenward, Adam Evans and Janet Sutton for their commitment and hard work.
The Ven. Hugh McCurdy, Chair of the MT Project Board
This review was very important because we felt we needed to pick up:
- some of the comments and loose ends from the Delivery Group meetings,
- the pastoral concerns and management issues that had been reported to the central team, mainly informally “so you are aware” type comments
- the need to report back to the Church Commissioners for the SDF part of the project.
This and the fact that we were approximately halfway through the original timescale and that we were coming out of lockdown meant that this was a great opportunity to take stock, listen carefully, recalibrate, and then move forward together.
From what one or two of you have said we are aware that some of you have asked - are we going to lose our jobs, or will the Diocese stop the project?
So let me say right at the start this is not about closing parts or all of the project. It is a genuine midterm review and a chance of going into 2022 with a renewed energy and vision for the project.
There will be fine tuning, and some adjustments will be required as a result of the review, and these are outlined by Jon Randall below.
So the purpose of this briefing is to give a verbal outline of the report and to talk about what has happened since the report went to the Board and then what happens next.
We are not sending out copies of the Report at the moment because there are a number of recommendations that need to be followed up on a town-by-town basis and I don’t think it would be either helpful or kind to the people involved if we were simply to send the Report out without an opportunity to talk to you first about some of the recommendations.
Contents of the report
The report has 5 sections.
- Section one - an outline of the brief and the interviews John Truscott conducted
- Section two - the setting or context of the report coming out of the lockdown
- Section three - the achievements to date
- Section four - the challenges and frustrations that were reported to John Truscott and his own reflections on what he heard
- Section five - recommendations going forward.
The first section looks at sections 3 and 4, the achievements to date and then the challenges we face. Jon’s accompanying paper goes through the recommendations.
Section 3 - Achievements to date
The Report describes the concept of investing in towns as prophetic and bold. Why? Because it points out the market towns are in areas which struggle to attract people to invest in. It is a risky project from that point of view.
John Truscott quotes someone who wrote - “I admire the CofE for wanting to invest into an area that has often been overlooked”. John Truscott, adds, “I would encourage the Board to see this as the first achievement of many”.
The Report then goes on to talk about the quality of the staff in the towns and the new appointments, the fact that there is a vison for the towns and a Diocesan strategy.
He notes there has been visible progress in a number of places including:
- Impressive schools work
- Better support for clergy which in turn frees them up
- Foodbank and caring for the wider community especially during the lockdowns and challenges presented by covid.
- Good data gathering allowing informed decision making
- Good networking with key town leaders across the project and with local authorities
- Better relationship building in each situation.
- Fresh Expressions work and how rapidly in some places that seemed to grow. He also acknowledges as we all do these are long term projects and not short terms fixes
- And the list goes on….
- Finally, John commends Mike Booker’s work and the fact that when Mike stepped aside how rapidly the Board moved to appoint Jon Randall who brings his own gifts to the project.
Section 4 - and the areas ripe for improvement
The Report identifies 8 areas that need attention
- It sees that the focus is on Market Towns and not Town leadership and suggests this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
- We underestimated the difficulty of changing the culture of a congregation, town or even a Diocese and that we have given ourselves a very short timeframe to do that. And then there was Covid-19….
- The report suggests that the management structure is confusing in terms of the Diocese offering financial support to towns but then expecting towns (leadership and PCC) to set their own agenda, manage staff and seek to address the predominant culture which could be summarised in some places as “we like it so we don’t want to change”.
- The Operation Manager’s role is often ill-defined, which means that they end up doing basic administration rather than the strategic leadership you might expect from someone who has that title.
- There is a degree of suspicion about “the Diocese” though John Truscott makes clear that this is not about the central team (Mike or Jon, Adam, Martin or Janet) nor actually about any one individual but a generic sense that “the Diocese” was distant and uninvolved.
- Local ownership is weak, in that not all PCCs are fully engaged in the project. One other notable quote “Centrally funded, locally managed and nobody owned”. In some places that maybe true, in others it is not the case.
- The Report also picks up the issue of fractured and strained relationships - people were often critical of one another in the town as well as between the towns. This has put a huge strain on the whole project in some places.
- Spirituality: The report picks up that we are engaged in not simply managing the towns as in a business, but we are engaged in a spiritual enterprise. John also feels that there is a lack of prayerful engagement with the project and calls us to address this.
As you can see the report is not shy of naming issues and addressing them - and we are very grateful as that allows us to tackle the issues and reset the project when and where we need to do so.
The recommendations will need further work and conversations with you but a delivery plan will be presented back to the Board and yourselves in due course.
The timing of that may be dependent on Omicron [Covid] and how the country reacts to that. But we will regularly be in touch and you will be able to see the progress we make in all these areas in the weeks to come.
The Report acts as a bit of a checklist and though there weren’t any surprises in the Report, it is a very helpful written account which we will work through as we adjust what we have done, make amends when and where we need to and seek to build upon all that has been good up until now.
Because of your commitment, the quality of the central team and the support from the wider diocese we are very positive about the future and how each of our market towns can flourish now and in the future.
This is the text of what Jon Randall, CMT Project Leader, presented to the CMT Team during a Zoom call on Monday December 20th, 2021.
As already described, there is much to celebrate in the CMT Project. There is much which is already working really well. Recommendations for change / improvement necessarily reflect those aspects of the project which are not currently working so well. John Truscott also recognises that the project is roughly halfway through and there is therefore a need for any changes to be capable of being implemented relatively quickly. When it met earlier in December the CMT Project Board accepted all the recommendations and asked the Project Team to work on their implementation.
John’s recommendations fall into four main categories which are described in greater detail below and listed at the foot of this document. The four areas are:
- Strengthen links to the centre;
- Changes to leadership in both staffing and governance;
- Rethinking mission in the context of each town;
- Promoting a spiritual heart to the project.
1. Strengthen links to the centre
- CMT workers and Operations Managers have been locally managed and John recognises that this has not always worked well. He recommends that steps are taken to improve the sense of there being a CMT “staff team” and encouraging this team to work together.
- The recommendations include a proposal that the three central staff should be line managed by the Project Leader (Jon Randall) and this change has already been agreed. John has also provided us with some suggestions for improvements to line management and those involved will be contacted in the New Year to see how we might best implement his recommendations. These improvements will be underpinned by the appointment of some external HR support from January .
2. Leadership changes in both staffing and governance
- John recognises that we have some very gifted staff, but challenges us to offer visionary leadership.
- In order to achieve this it is recommended that the Board’s responsibility for vision and finance is clarified. The Project Team has worked to produce some more detailed management accounts which will help the Board with this task and these accounts will be presented to the next Board meeting on January 12th .
- John recommended that the CMT Project Manager role aka Bishop’s Change Officer be retitled as “Project Leader” and that the Project Leader (Jon) be provided with some Executive Assistant support. The change in title has already been implemented and an advert for an EA / Communications role (see further below) has been placed with interviews in mid-January.
3. Rethink mission in context of each town
- John Truscott argues that the “project needs a shared understanding of mission and an appreciation of its challenges to the inherited culture of the churches we are working within”. He argues for a small central group to work on a shared understanding of mission with representatives drawn from across the project. This group will be established and begin its work early in the New Year. We’re also being encouraged to establish a clear and unique plan for each town with a focus on what is currently working and an encouragement to lay down those which are not. The clear focus should be on new start-ups rather than an expectation that existing congregations will grow. Again, the Project Team will be working closely with the Town Leads, CMT workers, Ops Managers and other stakeholders to create and publish these plans.
- There’s a clear encouragement for us to work to ensure that the Ops Managers do not become “quasi administrators” and to seek to ensure that they are sustainable roles. John identified the anomaly that Ops Managers are paid less than other CMT workers and recommended that this be sorted. This recommendation has already been actioned and Ops Manager salaries are being increased to the same level as CMT workers back-dated to 1st November .
- There is also a recommendation to outsource HR resources and this too has been actioned from January.
- There is also a recommendation to develop new communication channels to ensure that stakeholders are regularly informed about what is happening. This will be partly actioned through the new Comms role described in Section 1 above.
4. Promote a spiritual heart to the project
- John Truscott closes by encouraging us to emphasise the spiritual heart of the project and to ensure that prayer is at the centre of every aspect of the project. We have begun to action this recommendation by calling us together for a Day of Prayer on January 6th . Resources will be provided by the Project Team for those who would like to use them. We will be consulting with you in the coming weeks to discern how you would like to come together for prayer and what resources might be helpful for you.
- John also references the need to re-envision the project and reflect on how God might act through the CMT project. The mission discussions and work on the unique town plans described in Section 3 will play a key part in this.
- Lastly, the clear and urgent need to tackle some relationship issues is identified. We very much anticipate that the actions described above will play a significant part in improving relationships. However, we don’t underestimate the scale of this issue and will be urgently seeking your input and ideas on what further steps can be taken to improve relationships across the CMT project.
John Truscott writes that, “There is much to celebrate over what has been achieved in the past 3 years….” Indeed there is. However, we also recognise that changes are needed in some areas.
Some of the changes John recommended have already been implemented and the Project Team is urgently working to implement others. Many of the recommended changes will only be possible if we work well together across the whole CMT project and if relationships are restored and improved. I believe we have a pool of extremely talented people and that together we can do great things for the Kingdom of God.
Jon Randall, CMT Project Leader, Dec 20th, 2021(E: email@example.com)
The CMT Project Board received the full Report in December (2021) and accepted its recommendations. As outlined above, the Project Team have been working on a Delivery Plan to implement the Report’s recommendations.
The Project Team has worked hard to develop the Delivery Plan and we are now in a position to publish both the full Report and the Delivery plan. These can be downloaded via the links below.