The Bishops’ letter showed little serious thought about either morality or reality.
It failed to acknowledge the financial crisis with government expenditure exceeding revenues by more than the Health, Defence and Education budgets combined. The Welfare Budget is now a third of government spending: we cannot conceivably rescue the public finances without some painful changes (which will nonetheless merely curb its growth).Failure to tackle similar problems has created real poverty in Greece, Portugal and Spain.
The Bishops talk of “pushing children into poverty” then cite “a single parent with two children on a nurse’s average wage who would lose £552 pa by 2015”. They fail to mention that her earnings are £27,600; her benefits even uprated at only 1% will still be £2,500; and raising the tax threshold to £10,000 will cut her taxes by some £500, offsetting the impact of not uprating benefits. To say she is “pushed into poverty” is surely an exaggeration.
Moreover, the government has increased tax credits for the poorest workless families about whom, I agree with the Bishops, we should care most.
Sadly they do not recognise that most working people who are not getting benefits have seen their pay fall behind inflation. It is fair and wise to ensure that we do not erode the benefit of working.
What a shame our new Archbishop, who brings business experience and spiritual authority to his role, allowed himself to be bounced into signing this round robin. Before committing himself in future, I hope he will consult those he intends to criticise and those who know the details as he would have in his former career.