THE picture of the poor painted by the Chancellor, George
Osborne, in his speech on Monday, belonged in "the pages of a
Victorian novel", the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David
Walker, said this week.
"I do not recognise in the poor of Britain the image that [the
Chancellor's] plans suggest, that of a feckless underclass,
choosing to sponge off the state, laughing at those of us who work
hard for a living," he said on Wednesday.
Mr Osborne set out the next steps of his economic plan on
Monday, at a speech in Coleshill. "The plan is working," he said,
citing the creation of one million new jobs, and a reduction in the
deficit by a third. "I say: let's finish the job."
He warned that 2014 would be "the year of hard truths", before
setting out plans to make cuts of more than £60 billion over the
course of the next four years. "Government is going to have to be
permanently smaller - and so, too, is the welfare system."
A total of £12 billion of further welfare cuts would be needed
in the first two years of the next Parliament, he said. He warned
of a welfare system that "offers up benefits as a lifestyle
choice", and gave the long-term unemployed "something for nothing".
In an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he
suggested cutting housing benefit for those under 25, and
restricting council housing for those earning more than £65,000 a
On Wednesday, Bishop Walker agreed that, "In an economy that can
never be trusted to grow consistently, it is fair to say that the
proportion of national income spent by government will need at some
stage to return to something closer to the historic post-war
average." But "whether it should be falling so quickly" was a
matter for debate.
He expressed concern about the emphasis on cuts to welfare: "At
the heart of the Old Testament lies the fact that the prime purpose
of government . . . is to ensure a fair deal for those who do not
have the clout to grab their slice of the cake. The poor, the
widow, the orphan, the foreigner are the ones who provide the
testing-bed for whether a ruler is exercising their power in
accordance with God's will."