Church campaigners echo trade unions' concerns on public services

By staff writers
15 Sep 2009

Christian campaigners have echoed calls by trades unions to ensure that economic policies in the wake of the recession do not cause further harm to the most vulnerable people.

Liam Purcell of Church Action on Poverty (CAP) told Ekklesia that “We must not allow those responsible for the crisis to be rewarded while punishing the most vulnerable people in society by cutting the public services they depend upon”.

His remarks follow similar comments yesterday (14 September) by Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Recent days have seen much media speculation about both government and opposition plans for spending cuts. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, today told the TUC today that he would "cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes and cut lower priority budgets".

Some trade unionists responded more positively than others, with many claiming that the remarks were ambiguous. However, Brown said that Labour would not "support cuts in the vital front line services on which people depend"

Barber argued that financial savings could be made by scrapping plans to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system and to introduce identity cards. This would be an alternative to cuts in health and education.

A poll published last week revealed that 58 per cent of the population want to cancel Trident renewal but wish to increase spending on public services. The government estimates that going ahead with the Trident plan would cost £25 billion, but the cost has been placed at £76 billion by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

Barber also wants the government to introduce higher taxes on the richest people to help the majority of the population who are on low and average incomes.

Purcell urged the churches to stand alongside those most affected by the recession while speaking out for a fairer world.

“It is imperative that we learn the lessons of this recession” he said, “This is an opportunity for us to explore different, fairer ways of doing things; to change our systems so that they focus on people not profits; to close the appalling gap between rich and poor”.

The Methodist Church last week emphasised its history of support for trade unionism and endorsed a TUC campaign to support the most vulnerable workers. A number of leading Methodists, including the denomination's president, David Gamble, are attending the TUC's meeting in Liverpool this week.

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