Budget 2014: What have the churches been saying?

Budget 2014: What have the churches been saying?

As of 9.45am on Thursday 20 March 2014, the day after the Chancellor’s Budget statement, these were the comments and responses from the Churches in Britain that we were able to discover. Further updates will follow through Ekklesia’s ongoing reporting, commentary and analysis: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/budget2014

Our own initial statement on the need for a pro-social moral budget was sued here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20287 A further release will follow.

Rt Rev Tim Thornton, Anglican Bishop of Truro:

Has called on the Government to recognise how being in work is no longer sufficient to escape poverty.

"Nearly two-thirds of children in poverty have parents who are in work, so it is vital that the Government begins seriously to address the growing problem of in-work poverty."

Employers should aim to be "providing secure, meaningful employment, a living wage, and opportunities for progression".

"Government needs to recognise the vital role played by in-work benefits in helping to lift many families with children out of poverty."

In-work benefits are being "eroded in real terms by recent welfare cuts."

Concerned about the one per cent uprating policy – the plan to increase benefit payments by only one per cent per year. UK inflation currently stands at around 2.2 per cent, so a rise of one per cent a year would make the value of benefit payments decrease in real terms unless inflation drops. Also needs to be measured against earnings.

"We want to see things that will help people on low wages because their the ones who don't have enough to cover the out of the ordinary things, or even just their regular budget." (Western Morning News)

Ms Jennifer Herrera, Church of England's Acts 435 charity:

"We're hoping for an increase in the minimum wage. Of course we would love it to go up to a living wage, but any increase at all is welcome."

"We're pleased about the news of the increase in the individual tax allowance [the increase in the amount of untaxed income from its current level of £10,000 to £10,500], as that will have good knock on effects for those on low wages.”

(However, as CPAG Scotland has pointed out: “Raising the personal tax allowance does little good for many of the lowest paid workers. Many don’t pay tax anyway, while others keep just 15p in every extra pound because in-work benefits like housing benefit get withdrawn.”)

"What we're finding is that people who have got jobs just aren't earning enough." (Christian Today)

Chris Mould, Trussell Trust:

"Many people attending foodbanks have jobs. Too often those jobs are insecure, with uncertain hours. The 'zero hours contract' world may help kick start growth, but it doesn't usually help people out of poverty."

(Others have said that while zero hours contracts can be of use to those not in poverty or needing top-up income, for others they are an insecure prison and there should be an end to enforcing them.)

"Poor people need better base pay, more employment security, more full time rather than part time work."

"Local authorities have been given greater responsibility for supporting people in crisis and we have seen many creative approaches in 2013 as a result of this devolution.

"More resources in the hands of local authorities, well managed, would mean more local capacity to help people in crisis and better public services to support low earners: for example cheaper travel to work and more low cost housing.”

(Others have pointed out that, in fact, most local authorities are having their budgets cut significantly, their range of duties increased, and the range of statutory requirements watered down. Resources are also being diverted to judicial review cases when this squeeze is leaving those at the cutting edge with little alternative – though legal enforcement is also being reduced as a result of severe cuts in civil legal aid in England and Wales, and constraints in Scotland).

Caritas Social Action Nework CEO Helen O’Brien:

“For another year the value of Working Tax Credits, Child Benefit and many disability allowances will decline in real terms. People are already experiencing hardship as a result of this policy and there is a very real danger that it will be compounded by the planned cap on welfare spending.”

“The only consistency we’re seeing is a worryingly inconsistent approach to tackling poverty.” (The Tablet)

Church Action on Poverty director Niall Cooper:

"With upwards of half a million people forced to turn to foodbanks in the past six months alone it is imperative that the Chancellor finds ways to ease the pressure on household budgets for all those in communities up and down the country who are struggling to make ends meet, and to literally put food on the table for themselves and their families - whether they are in work or not." (Christian Today, Ekklesia).

Other responses:

All married couples should benefit from a new preferential tax break being introduced in the Budget, including couples in which one or both partners is a higher rate taxpayer, earning more than £42,285 a year, said Anglican Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Peter Forster, along with conservative Christian charity, Care, and the Centre for Social Justice think-tank associated closely with Conservative-led coalition government Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith. (Daily Telegraph)

In a speech on the economy two weeks before the Budget, Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed criticism of his public spending cuts by Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols, many Church of England bishops, the Church of Scotland and the Free Churches.

The Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England warmly welcomed the announcement of a new two-year £20 million fund for repairs to cathedrals, announced in the Chancellor's Budget (Press Release).

The Church of England is well placed to support community credit unions, according to Sir Hector Sants, chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Task Group on Responsible Savings and Credit, in a statement and interview on the eve of the Budget.

No statement as of the morning of 20 March from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have circulated the statement from Caritas Social Action network detailed above.

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church the Quakers in Britain and the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) have strongly and consistently criticised spending cuts hitting the poorest, and the Joint Public Issues Team of the Free Churches has engaged in a major campaign against misleading and false statements about poverty, the poor, welfare and benefits, actively backed by Ekklesia. (JPIT, Guardian, Ekklesia).

The Methodists, Baptists and URC have criticised the reduction is alacohol levies in the budget, given the huge social problems associated with excess drinking and research on the impact of pricing and promotion. (Church press releases, Ekklesia).

* Truth and lies about poverty, benefits and welfare: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18086

* Ekklesia's 2014 Budget coverage: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/budget2014

* On Twitter, follow the hashtag: #Budget2014

[Ekk/3]

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