The poorest will have to shoulder the biggest burden as a result of today’s Spending Review by George Osborne.
The Chancellor has singled out the poorest for further cuts:
* £3.7 billion cuts to benefits of the poorest
* £1 billion tax increases for better off
* Austerity and spending cuts extended for a further 2 years
Yet again, Mr Osborne has reinforced social division, by trying to justify a further £3.7 billion cuts to the incomes of the poorest by using divisive language designed to drive a wedge between ‘strivers’ and ‘shirkers.’
In capping benefit increases – for working families as well as those out of work – the Chancellor has decided to shrink the deficit by squeezing the incomes of those who are already struggling to make ends meet. Families reliant on benefits will be six per cent worse off in real terms by 2015, and cumulatively loose a staggering £3.7 billion at a time when food and fuel bills are rising fast.
“A fresh round of benefit cuts pulls the rug from under the feet of those already on the edge of destitution.” - Oxfam.
The Chancellor announced a cut to pension tax relief for the wealthy – which in contrast, is anticipated to bring in just £1 billion – almost four times less.
On tackling tax avoidance, the Spending Review made a good start, but there is much more to be done.
In response to over 1,000 emails sent by Church Action on Poverty supporters in the past four weeks – in addition to the well publicised tax dodging antics of Starbucks, Google and Amazon – and a growing torrent of criticism in the media and parliament – had heaped pressure on the Chancellor to bring in measures to crackdown on tax avoidance.
The measures announced today are a good start, but will claw back just £2 billion of the £35 billion the Government estimate is dodged in taxes each year.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week, Church leaders in the north of England joined together to condemn government spending cuts and welfare reform that is ‘stigmatising’ communities.
Led by the the Anglican Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, 30 leading religious figures signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Work and Pensions Secretary, detailing their anxieties over how the reforms and cuts were playing out in their communities.
The Bishop of Bradford said the government needed to know how its proposals were impacting on people who live outside London.
“They’re not just dealing with figures in Whitehall, this is having an impact on people every day and the poorest are paying the highest,” he said.
” Welfare reforms mean the poorest people are getting poorer, while the richest people are getting richer – and that’s a scandal. In Bradford we have 38,000 children living below the poverty line. That is something we cannot remain silent about.”
If this isn’t something you can remain silent about – then sign up for Church Action on Poverty’s Close the Gap campaign: http://church-poverty.org.uk/closethegap 
* Church leaders' letter to PM over welfare cuts 'scandal': http://www.bradford.anglican.org/church-leaders-letter-to-pm-over-welfar... 
© Niall Cooper is National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty (www.church-poverty.org.uk ). This article is excerpted from his regular personal / work blog, with grateful acknowledgement: http://niallcooper.wordpress.com/