CHURCH leaders and faith groups have given a mixed response to
the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on the state of the economy last
The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, told the House of
Lords: "Thirty per cent of tax is now collected from one per cent
of taxpayers. That is a signal of how disparities of wealth have
grown in our society. It really behoves us to protect the
He asked how a benefits cap would work in practice, when "social
security benefits can rise and fall with events which nobody can
His point was echoed by the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN)
of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, which said that
the benefits cap "runs the risk of being extremely inflexible".
"We fear that setting an arbitrary ceiling for overall
welfare-spending may fail to take account of growing levels of
poverty and rising costs of living," CSAN's head of policy, Liam
Allmark, said. "As we encounter a growing number of families in
need of our support services, it becomes increasingly vital that a
viable safety net is maintained."
The Chancellor announced that further changes will be made to
the state retirement age, to keep account of increasing life
expectancy. People who are now in their 20s can expect to work
until they are 70 before being eligible to claim the state
A spokeswoman for the Church of England Pensions Board said that
the change would not affect entitlement to the C of E pension for
clergy and lay employees; and that no consideration was being given
to raising the mandatory retirement age for clergy, which is
currently set at 70.
World Vision welcomed the Chancellor's commitment to continue
spending 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on overseas
aid, and for becoming the first G8 country to achieve this
international target, which was originally set in the 1970s.
"This will confirm the UK's status as a world leader in
international development," the director of policy and programmes
at World Vision UK, David Thomson, said. "The ongoing humanitarian
crisis in Syria and the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan on the
Philippines shows once again the importance of aid and
international development reaching the world's most vulnerable
children and families."
The Children's Society welcomed the announcement that all
children at infant school will be given free school meals,
describing it as "a significant step forward"."For many children, a
free school meal is their only chance of getting a nutritious
meal," a spokeswoman said.