The promise of a genuine 'big society' is being undermined by cuts that threaten the kind of community development needed to address inequality, Anglican Archbishop Dr John Sentamu has said today.
He was speaking at a large 'Tackling Poverty Together' conference in Leeds, organised by the Church Urban Fund.
In a passionate address, Dr Sentamu said that he had seen the impact of the cuts on vital services for, and initiatives from, young people in the north of England.
The government has an important role in investment and services, alongside projects and action in civil society and from the church he said.
The Archbishop said that he paid his taxes, and others paid their taxes, because they want the government to eradicate poverty and promote social justice.
It is access to services, equal opportunities and social justice which creates the common good in a meaningful way, he said. Every person matters, and none are expendable.
The church, when it is acting prophetically in the public square, is not a 'special interest', but a body seeking the good of all by seeking to stand alongside those in most need.
Poverty has persisted and income inequality has grown substantially despite improvements since the Beveridge era, Dr Sentamu declared.
In the words of Archbishop Williams Temple, one of the forerunners of the welfare state, poverty ought to be "visible, audible and smellable" to us - not something forgotten or left to someone else.
He recounted the biblical concern to tackle poverty and make wealth accountable, both in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
Social insurance and the NHS came about on the basis of a radical and popular vision in the midst of post-war economic crisis, said Dr Sentamu. Something similar is needed today, in the spirit of the Christian ethic and wider community spirit.
The aim, he said, is a more equitable and just world. The churches are among those who have to persuade people and government that this should be the priority.
The 'Tackling Poverty Together' conference is bringing together activists and pioneers from church and community groups to look at how to deepen and broaden grassroots-shaped anti-poverty action and social investment.
The Archbishop of York is also heading up a 'Fairness Commission' consultation in his own area, assisting the local authority in key decisions. This has opposed cuts in children's service and services assisting the elderly and vulnerable.
'Together Each Achieves More' is the true meaning of 'Team', he added. It is teamwork that is needed to tackle poverty.
The Church Urban Fund was established in the wake of the 1985 'Faith in the City' report, which was denounced by PM Margaret Thatcher and her ministers at the time.