From the Revd Paul Nicolson
Sir, - I live on my pension in Tottenham. Thanks to Queen Anne's
Bounty, a generous laity, and taxpayers through Gift Aid, plus the
skilled exploitation of a free market by the capitalist Church
Commissioners, I am secure till the end of my life, paying 25 per
cent of my gross pension to them for a two-bedroom terraced
The bishops and clergy of the diocese of London live in church
property rent- and council-tax-free. We are surrounded by
insecurity of tenure and the innocent suffering of the tenants of
local councils and social housing. The injustice is
Typical cases are a single mother with two young children placed
in sub-standard private temporary accommodation in Tottenham; the
flat is damp. The ceiling falls in on her child's cot, mercifully
not on the child. Her doctor tells the council that the family's
health is at risk from the damp flat. Haringey moves her to a flat
in the borough of Enfield; it, too, is damp. She does not know that
she has to reapply for her council-tax benefit; so Enfield charges
her account with £900 of council tax. She is therefore in arrears;
they summon her to the magistrates' court, adding £70 court costs
to the arrears for a liability order, putting her at risk of a very
expensive visit from the bailiffs. She brings her child back to
school in Tottenham every day.
Another single mother with two children has been in temporary
accommodation since 2002. She has been moved eight times by
Haringey Council in and out of the borough, twice into bed and
breakfast in a hotel. She, too, has struggled to keep her children
at the same school as their friends.
We should be protesting from our comfortable rooftops, if not on
the streets. But there is a lack of formal public engagement, at
every level of our diocese of London, in the suffering of the
poorest London tenants. It is created by the lack of both adequate
incomes and affordable housing, as well as the unlimited access of
national and international speculators to London property in short
supply, which forces up land values and rents, and leaves
There are no signs of any national or local policies, from any
political party, that will improve the circumstances of the poorest
London tenants. Inadequate incomes, unaffordable housing, council
tax, and its enforcement are creating malnutrition, hypothermia,
and debt-related stress. There is a known connection between
mental-health problems and debt.
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus: "Teacher,
rebuke your disciples!"
"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will
cry out" (Luke 19.39-40).
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF
From Jenny Sinclair
Sir, - I endorse Canon Paul Hackwood's carefully chosen words in
"No cavalry is coming over the hill" (Comment, 20
The work going on under the Church Urban Fund umbrella is
generating hope in what my father, Bishop David Sheppard, called
"communities of the left behind". In the most practical of ways, it
is addressing the urgent task of strengthening civil society to
counter the dual pressures of market forces and state dependency.
Hope is a powerful force.
CUF's practical action supports churches of all traditions'
working together, and this highlights the potential for all
Christians to be agents of reconciliation at the heart of the
divisions that are polarising our society - Left and Right, rich
and poor, secular and faith, business and unions, educated and
By virtue of our joint networks and shared commitment to human
dignity, together we can support the negotiation necessary between
estranged interests to discern solutions that work for all sections
of our communities, and enable all to flourish. This is the common
good in practice. Loving our enemies and loving our neighbour go
God knows, we need a new way of working for a just society: the
polarisation of our politics is paralysing good people. As Canon
Hackwood says, "No cavalry is coming over the hill": it is up to us
as citizens to find our strength again, and we cannot any longer
expect, nor should we wish, the state to provide much of what
communities themselves could do so much better.
Some social-justice campaigning is still holding a torch for the
big state, but in doing so it alienates and disenfranchises
significant groups who want to help. The common good, however,
offers a new approach in which all can engage; so we applaud the C
of E for placing a debate on the common good at the heart of the
Synod on 12 July.
Together for the Common Good
24 Lattimer Place
London W4 2UB
From Mr Rodney Wolfe Coe
Sir, - I live on £32 per week less than the so-called Living
27 June). I have a frugal lifestyle, and want for little.
As a young person, I was consistently told: "Education,
employment, property, marriage, children: stray from this pathway
at your peril." Unlike many of today's "welfare claimants", I did
not stray from the pathway.
A couple of weeks ago, much media time was given to the feelings
of young people in Nottingham regarding benefits for the younger
generation. Why, indeed, should the single woman with umpteen
children be given vast amounts of money, to waste on drink, drugs,
and rented accommodation, for choosing not to follow the correct
RODNEY WOLFE COE
25 Cecil Court, Upper Queens Road
Ashford, Kent TN24 8HG