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So, what is a realistic alternative to welfare cuts?

08 March 2013


From the Revd Adrian Bailey

Sir, - With the Chancellor's Budget approaching, and in the light of many recent articles and letters in the Church Times lamenting the effects of government cuts, especially on towns and cities in the north, are there alternatives to the painful austerity programme? Solutions fall into four categories:

First, increase borrowing beyond the current £120 billion per year to finance new government expenditure. This is party-political territory. Christians should, however, have a view on how much debt it is fair to burden the next generation with. As a percentage of GDP, national debt is already at a post-war high.

Second, divert money from other areas of government expenditure towards the most vulnerable. Christians may hate the idea of spending millions on weapons when Mrs Smith has to wait for her operation. But other areas of expenditure have already been heavily cut. Health and social security consume most taxes anyway. With an ageing population, the bill is rising annually.

Third, increase taxes on the private sector and the wealthy. Christians applaud the principle of the rich helping the poor. But, in today's global marketplace, any government must perform a fine balancing act. Raising taxes too much could damage competitiveness, reduce incentives to expand business and create fresh wealth, plunge us into recession, and thus reduce tax income.

Fourth, increase the size of the economy by encouraging wealth- creation and innovation. This sounds attractive. The larger the cake, the more there is to share. But rising food, fuel, and commodity prices remind us that the earth has finite resources. Christian environmental concern needs to recognise the impact of every country's wanting to grow its economy, year on year.

It is natural for clerics and politicians to want to draw attention to the plight of the people whom they serve. Every victim of economic austerity is a tragedy. But merely complaining achieves little. There needs to be a more honest Christian discussion about solutions, which are often complex.

The Vicarage, Old Chirk Road
Gobowen, Oswestry SY11 3LL

From Joyce Donoghue

Sir, - Professor Bob Holman's article (Comment, 1 March) could not have been more timely than the very weekend when, in all seriousness, a government Minister proposed that the shortfall in the defence budget should be made good from the already totally inadequate budget for welfare. Those tax-free bonuses and sky-high salaries should be his target.

Professor Holman's article was inspiring. Let us, the Churches, adopt this truly Christian theology - and act accordingly.

12 Ledgers Meadow, Cuckfield
West Sussex RH17 5EW

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