Bishop of Liverpool challenges 'unfair' government cuts

By staff writers
January 20, 2013

The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool is asking the government to review and re-examine the criteria upon which their current public spending cuts are based.

Speaking at a summit he hosted alongside the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, the Rt Rev James Jones said: "We do best as a society when we provide for others out of our sense of humanity what we provide for our families out of a sense of affection."

Leaving little doubt about his personal concern for the way the most vulnerable appear to be suffering most under the weight of austerity and cutbacks, Bishop Jones, who has been high profile in the struggle of the Hillsborough families for justice, warned that some of Britain’s major cities risk “atrophy and death” as a result of present policies.

In his keynote address to a summit which include political and faith leaders from Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle and Sheffield, the bishop spoke out of a pastoral concern for the city citing the stories that are coming from our churches' experience at the front line of social welfare.

Speaking on BBC radio on Saturday 19 January 2013, Bishop Jones declared: "When society goes through difficult stages and experiences trauma there is a need for a sort of social triage which involves the pastor, the prophet and the politician. Pastors must come alongside and hear the cry, prophets must speak clearly about their diagnosis and politicians must prescribe solutions. Society needs all three."

He added that "faith communities through our different sacred texts have an acute sense of justice," and said that "out of their pastoral experience often speak prophetically about the need to share fairly the wealth we have".

Bishop Jones commented that some of the poorest areas in the country were having to sustain cuts that “do not feel fair” to those on the receiving end and those working with the most marginalised.

He said: “The cities here represented today know that it is within their boundaries that the severest cuts are being endured with figures of £200 to £300 being cut per person. This compares with other parts of the country where the cuts are a third of these being sustained in some of the most challenging areas.”

A government spokesperson said that this claim was "wrong" and that the bishop "is not comparing like with like". But critics of the government's cuts programme said that this is precisely the point -- the uneveness lies in what is being done. Smaller, wealthier authorities are benefitting in comparison to larger, more complex ones.

The coalition is also seeking to spin and divert attention from the combined impact of local authority, welfare, benefits and jobs cuts on the most deprived regions by listing a series small 'special' or 'discretionary' funds. However, the cumulative impact is still appears highly detrimental; something the government is keen not to admit.

“Urban diabetes is where the blood pumps around the heart but fails to reach all parts of the body,” Bishop Jones said, explaining a metaphor for the problems of the cities which is derived from his own direct experience of the afflication.

He continued: “The challenge we face is to ensure that the wealth that we do have is shared in such a way that it flows around the whole body to every extremity. If in social terms it fails to do so then we will be faced with the danger of parts of the body atrophying and dying.”

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson said that his city was being asked to shave the equivalent of £252 per person, while affluent areas of north Dorset were losing just £2 per inhabitant.

He explained: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if you take away 52 per cent of a city's funding; and when you force us to cut £141 million in two years and you come back for another £143 million in the next four; when you keep coming back causing more pain; when you refuse to listen, you add insult to injury and you cause alienation and disaffection.”

Free Church leaders have spoken out strongly against the cuts that are hitting the welfare of the poorest in Britain.

The chair of the Church Urban Fund has criticised punitive government welfare cuts and the emaciation of the social contract behind the welfare state.

Church leaders in the North East of England have warned the government that slashing spending and emaciating state provision is having a “scandalous” impact on communities in their region.

Some Catholic and Anglican leaders have also made public statements. But it is grassroots initiatives among Christians, alongside others, where the resistance is strongest.

Christianity Uncut, for example, is "a network of Christians campaigning against the UK government's cuts agenda and the injustices of capitalism. We are inspired by Jesus, who took nonviolent direct action in the Jerusalem Temple in solidarity with people who are exploited and marginalised."

* Bishop of Liverpool: http://www.liverpool.anglican.org/index.php?p=60

* Christianity Uncut: http://christianityuncut.wordpress.com/

* More from Ekklesia on the cuts: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/governmentcuts

[Ekk/3]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.