A DISABLED worker fears he could lose his home after church bosses more than doubled his fee for managing its car park.
Mark Pickering, who has operated Park With Mark at Wesley Hall Methodist Church since 1994, claims he is being forced out to allow the Feilden Street church to fund a project for asylum seekers.
Methodist leaders confirmed that they were seeking to increase income from the car park in order to improve its ARC Together in Hope programme, which gives English lessons and advice to refugees arriving in Blackburn.
Mr Pickering, who has learning disabilites after suffering from hydroce-phalus as a youngster, has been told his rent will increase from £3,600 per year to £7,800 from September 30.
The 38-year-old, of Hambledon View, Read, said he was ‘devastated’ at the decision taken by the church’s management committee. He said: “I feel like I have been treated terribly. My regular customers can’t believe it. The committee called us in for a meeting in January and explained the situation to us but I feel let down.”
Mark’s twin brother, John, said Mark had worked 52 hour weeks for the past 20 years and never missed a day in spite of various hospital appointments. He said: “They are basically making him unemployable. He has no official qualifications and the car park has been his whole working life.
“He had a mortgage and doesn’t want to become a drain on the benefits system. He only earns about £10,000 a year but it gives him independence and self-worth. The church thinks it can earn £30,000 a year from the car park using number-plate recognition but that’s nonsense.”
Wesley Hall Methodist Church spokeswoman Anna Drew said the church was required by law to get the best possible deal on any leasing agreement. She said: “Because of this, after much consideration, the West Pennine Moors Methodist Circuit decided to increase the rent of the church car park. The rent has not been increased for some years and the church needs to raise funds for its work in the area. The work with refugees and asylum seekers is absolutely vital to the church.”
Mark’s mum, Sylvia, 73, said: “I’m a churchgoer, but if this is religion, I want out.”