...and then there was one...
It sounds like the bookshop formerly known as SPCK Chichester is now closed, which leaves only Durham still under the control of the Brewer brothers. Durham Cathedral have already given them notice to quit - by April next year - but the Charity Commissioners may have other views.
If Chichester has been closed because the CC's deem it to be an asset of the former 'Society of St. Stephen the Great' charity, and therefore part of the tribunal settlement with former staff, then logic suggests that they do the same with Durham. Every other remaining shop in the former SPCK chain is already under Charity Commissioners control.
If you're planning to buy anything from Durham, then you might want to get a move on. The Cathedral want to re-open the shop after they've evicted the Brewers, but I can't see the Commissioners waiting until April 2010. Former staff have been promised full payment of their tribunal settlement within 3 months, so I guess the CC's will be looking to identify assets during that time frame.
And that will be that: the end of the SPCK bookshop chain in its final incarnation. Several former shops have reopened under new management, and places like Durham will probably be viable under proper management, but there's wider issues in Christian bookselling, and this isn't exactly the best time to be starting up a new shop.
Still a stack of ongoing issues:
- if SPCK passed on the shops to the Brewers under a covenant stating that they should continue to operate as Christian bookshops, does that still stand now the Charity Commissioners have taken possession?
- if so, will we have a government agency running a chain of Christian bookshops? (!!??!)
- SPCK themselves have been very quiet for much of the last 2 years, possibly for legal reasons. But having made the decision to hand the bookshops over to Mark and Phil Brewer, there has to be some kind of review of that decision, and some learning of lessons.
- there are other untraced monies, like pension contributions.
- at what point will Phil and Mark Brewer be brought to justice, rather than simply be forced by the courts to cough up what they already owe?
and so on.... please pray for all the folk caught up in this, it's deeply sad, and bookshop staff are caught in an incredibly difficult position.