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Bishop warns of austerity’s ‘social consequences’

09 July 2012

THE BISHOP of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price, has warned that the country faces more episodes of violent disorder similar to that which hit the nation in August last year ( News, 12 August).

In an address to the General Synod on Sunday afternoon, Bishop Price warned that the Government's austerity measures had social consequences, which were having a disproportionate impact on the poor.

He said that he recognised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was under immense pressure from financial markets and credit-reference agencies; and it was "perfectly possible to empathise" with him while at the same time "sound a clear warning note about the social consequences of austerity measures which hit the most vulnerable hardest and leave the very rich unscathed. When the nation tightens its belt, inevitably the least resilient are those who suffer most."

But he denied being "sentimental" about those who "took to the streets last August and destroyed property, ruined other people's lives, and walked off with looted trophies. Riots embody appalling evil and criminality, and those who get drawn in often display great wickedness."

He continued: "The tragedy of our times is that we have a large population of young people who are desperate to escape from the constrained lives to which they seem to be condemned. Where hope has been killed off, and with no prospect of escape, is it surprising that their energies erupt in antisocial and violent actions?"

Bishop Price warned that similar outbreaks of disorder might happen "this summer, or next, or the summer after", and that the Church needed to learn quickly and thoroughly from the churches who were caught up in last year's events.

"Pray God that there will be no such repeated trouble. But make no mistake: social tensions will not go away, and hopelessness in our communities is something we are all called on to address, preferably before the cauldron bubbles over."

Bishop Price made his comments in a speech presenting theTesting the Bridges  report on the Church's response to the outbreak of violent disorder ( News, 22 June).


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