Bishops accuse Labour policy of neglecting the poor

By staff writers
28 Dec 2008

Five leading Church of England bishops have criticised the government's social policy, suggesting that Labour policy has led to the neglect of the most vulnerable.

The bishops of Durham, Winchester, Hulme, Manchester and Carlisle - several of whom will be seen as conservative-leaning - have made their comments to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

The Anglican bishops say that Britain is suffering from family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing gap between rich and poor.

New Labour has defended its record of helping people out of poverty, saying that fairness is at the core of its agenda, reports the BBC.

Meanwhile, in his New Year message next week, Gordon Brown is expected to say the recession will be a test of Britain's character.

The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, told the Sunday Telegraph that ministers had not done enough to help the poor.

"Labour made a lot of promises, but a lot of them have vanished into thin air," he declared.

The fourth most senior bishop in the Church of England, also a noted biblical scholar, added: "We have not seen a raising of aspirations in the last 13 years, but instead there is a sense of hopelessness. While the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer.

"When a big bank or car company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing their savings diminished."

In a separate interview with the newspaper, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, accused Labour of being "beguiled by money" and "morally corrupt".

His comments echoed his Christmas Day sermon in which he said society was facing an inevitable come-uppance for its "buy now, pay later" culture.

The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the Church's Bishop for Urban Life and Faith and also the Bishop of Hulme, said: "The government isn't telling people who are already deep in debt to stop overextending themselves, but instead is urging us to spend more."

He continued: "That is morally suspect and morally feeble. It is unfair and irresponsible of the government to put pressure on the public to spend in order to revive the economy."

Meanwhile, the bishops of Winchester and Carlisle claimed ministers had squandered their opportunity to transform society and run out of steam.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, the Bishop of Carlisle, said: "I agree with the Conservatives that the breakdown of the family is a crucial element in the difficulties of our present society.

"The government hasn't given sufficient support to that because it is scared of losing votes."

The bishops' tough critique of Labour policies follows a public attack on the government from the Archbishop of Canterbury last week.

Dr Rowan Williams said Gordon Brown's plans to spend more in order to tackle the recession were like an "addict returning to the drug", and suggested the economy had been going in the wrong direction for decades.

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