THE BISHOP of Birmingham has responded to the Chancellor’s Budget statement calling for ‘policies that will promote healing over further division.’
The Rt Rev David Urquhart said that the UK needs to be committed to policies of care for the environment, a bias for social justice and a renewed focus on the most vulnerable, as it considers its place outside of the EU.
Bishop Urquhart said that he is encouraged by the Chancellor’s announcement of an extra £2 billion to social care funding over the next three years but he said ‘this needs to be placed on a more sustainable footing.’
He spoke about the ‘priority for an improving school system’, which he said ‘should be to ensure that this is made possible for each person, no matter the circumstances into which they are born or the struggles they may face as learners.’
He welcomed the announcement of extra funding for technical education and the proposed T-level, which would give a ‘fresh emphasis’ to equipping young people with technical skills.
Bishop Urquhart welcomed renewed investment in infrastructure. He emphasized that small independent businesses are ‘vital’ to the economy and that he will be looking closely at the steps the Chancellor has announced to alleviate the impact of the business rates rise.
He said that he remains concerned about levels of in-work poverty. “A bias towards justice must mean that the fruits of any economic upturn are felt first by those who are most struggling,” he said, pointing out that research from a number of national charities has shown that a combination of benefit freezes and a rising cost of living is putting pressure on living standards and an increase in child poverty for those already on the margins. This led to ‘more families facing the prospect of having to prioritise debt repayment over family essentials.’
He said that churches, charities and civil society have a key role to play alongside Government in helping to alleviate these problems, ‘but a safety net needs to be well maintained’, he urged.
“I am concerned by reports from the Charities Aid Foundation that nearly one in five charities report they are struggling to survive, rising to a quarter for smaller charities.
“Though not mentioned by the Chancellor in his speech, the doubling of the rate of Insurance Premium Tax over the past 18 months is just one area that Government might re-examine, given the disproportionate impact it has on charities and churches,” he said.