Church Action on Poverty and other leading charities have today asked for a commitment from all party leaders, and particularly those of the three biggest parties, that tax rises and spending cuts will not hit the poorest hardest.
In a letter sent and published on 26 April 2010, groups including Church Action on Poverty, Child Poverty Action Group, Barnardo’s, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), and the Equality Trust called on the leaders to commit to a ‘Fairness Test’ on any tax rises or spending cuts needed to reduce the deficit.
The test, undertaken by government, would measure the likely impact of any policy to ensure it did not increase income inequality. It would be developed by the Treasury with input from other departments. As well as better informing government decisions, it would allow greater scrutiny by independent bodies.
Niall Cooper, National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, commented: “As our politicians make tough decisions in the time ahead, they have the opportunity to make our society fairer. They must ensure that the wealthiest people in our society make a fair contribution, and that those who already have little are not driven further into poverty."
He added: "Politicians talk a great deal about inequality – but a Fairness Test would show that they are really committed to closing the gap between rich and poor.”
Richard Wilkinson, co-director of the Equality Trust, explained: “We’re asking all party leaders to assess the impact that their policies will have on income inequality and ensure that the rich, rather than the poor, shoulder the main burden of reducing the deficit."
“Reducing the deficit could be the perfect opportunity to narrow the record gap between rich and poor in the UK. But if the wrong policies are chosen, inequalities will widen still further, damaging people’s lives and the social fabric of our society,” concluded Wilkinson.
Meanwhile, Shan Nicholas, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Whoever is in government to make the tough decision on cutting the deficit, they must put fairness at the heart of the process for families on low incomes. If tax rises or spending cuts lead to greater inequality, the promise all parties have made to end child poverty by 2020 will not be met."
Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s declared that "it is shameful that in this, one of the richest nations in the industrialised world, a child born into a poor family is more likely than ever to start accumulating disadvantage at birth."
"Whoever is in Government must seize the opportunity to reverse the growth in inequality and tackle child poverty so that every baby born in the UK has a more equal chance to contribute to the future wealth and prosperity of our society," said Narey.
Church Action on Poverty (www.church-poverty.org.uk ) is an ecumenical Christian social justice charity, which mobilises churches to work alongside others to tackle poverty in the UK.