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Mixed response for Autumn Statement

13 December 2013


On the box: the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, delivers his Autumn Statement, on Thursday of last week 

On the box: the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, delivers his Autumn Statement, on Thursday of last week 

CHURCH leaders and faith groups have given a mixed response to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on the state of the economy last week.

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 weakest."

He asked how a benefits cap would work in practice, when "social security benefits can rise and fall with events which nobody can control."

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 pension.

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.



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