The Anglican Bishop of Manchester has regretted that Chancellor George Osborne appears to have an attitude to poverty better suited to "a Victorian novel".
The Rt Rev David Walker, quoted in the Church Times newspaper, was responding last week to the UK government's plans to make cuts of more than £60 billion over the course of the next four years – much of them from welfare, and all from the public sector.
Unlike those who point to the economic reality of the largest percentage of the debt problem resting squarely in the private and financial sectors, Bishop Walker did not criticise the central austerity narrative about squeezing government spending, or question the relationship between reducing overall debt and reducing the deficit, but he did say that the changes should not happen so quickly.
However the senior churchman joined many others in deploring the negative attitude towards the economically and socially disadvantaged inherent in current coalition policies and pronouncements.
"I do not recognise in the poor of Britain the image that [the Chancellor's] plans suggest, that of a feckless underclass, choosing to sponge off the state, laughing at those of us who work hard for a living," the bishop declared.
"At the heart of the Old Testament lies the fact that the prime purpose of government ... is to ensure a fair deal for those who do not have the clout to grab their slice of the cake.
"The poor, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner are the ones who provide the testing-bed for whether a ruler is exercising their power in accordance with God's will," he concluded.