Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Churches and the Welfare State

The BBC are really going big on a story about four churches attacking the Gov't over changes to the welfare state. The four are the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the United Reform Church and the Church of Scotland. The story is being sold as if its the four Church's Easter Message. I'm told the Guardian has also gone quite big on it. Surprisingly, I can find no mention of it in the Sunday Telegraph or the Mail on Sunday, which we take at home. Makes me suspect it was not an Easter message at all. In fact, the Guardian tells us that it was a report published by the Churches 'earlier this year'. It very much looks as if its been recycled by the BBC at Easter in an effort to give it greater impact. I suppose you could say it was re-making a story to pursue an agenda.

Whatever. Lets consider what the churches are supposed to have said. I cannot make much of it, except that they don't like references to benefit recipients in pejorative language. Well I'm with the churches on that. The single issue referred to is the limit on uprating benefits to 1% for the next three years. I accept this was a tough call by the Chancellor, but I cannot see that he has much choice. Since the Coalition Gov't came to power and set about reducing the deficit, public sector workers have received only 1% per year at best - and employees in the private sector have fared even worse. And last year, benefits were uprated by a whopping 5.2%. I cannot but feel some re-balancing was needed here - particularly since the squeeze on wages in both public and private sector is going to carry on for longer than we wanted or hoped. Others oppose this 1% limit as well, so I'm not criticising the Churches for their view - just disagreeing with it. But I bet the Churches are a bit miffed that this has been portrayed as the big Easter Message.

In general, the churches should think through their positions a bit more carefully. Their comments make no reference to the need to make savings. Do they not know about the appalling financial disaster the current Gov't inherited in 2010. Do they not think comments would be taken more seriously if they at least recognised that there is a deficit to be tackled. Do they not realise that the only countries where the welfare state has actually been cut back is where Gov'ts have lost control of the public finances. Nothing has caused more human tragedy than the way the welfare state was used by the last Labour Gov't to create a dependency culture - where young people are effectively written off while still at school. Reforming the welfare state into one that is a 'safety net' rather than a 'dependency trap' is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Coalition Gov't. None of us are sure this reform can be pulled off. The Labour opposition I can understand - but you really would have thought the churches would have wanted to help.

5 comments:

Unknown said...

"Do they not realise that the only countries where the welfare state has actually been cut back is where Gov'ts have lost control of the public finances."

Does that mean you feel the current government has lost control of public finances? - because that's how it reads.

Glyn Davies said...

Unknown - No it doesn't. The welfare state will increase every year of the Coalition Parliament. The only EU countries where cuts have been are Ireland, Spain Portugal - and maybe Greece - with Italy, Cyprus to follow.

john rhys said...

pam fod popol gyfoethog yn talu llai o dreth

Glyn Davies said...

John Rhys asks why rich people are paying less income tax. I suspect you mean 'high earners'rather than rich people. Plenty of millionaires earn very little and pay no income tax at all. Its a fair question. There is a law of diminishing returns as income tax rises, because of resentment and tax affairs arrangement to resist paying as tax levels rise - as well as the position of international competetiveness. The last Labour Gov't (correctly in my opinion) had a top rate of 40p for the 13 yrs it was in power. Just beofre losing office the top rate was increased to 50p (in my view as a political stunt). It raised very little extra money. Personally I would have returned the position to 40p, but the Chancellor decided on 45p. Interestingly, despite their oppoprtunistic rhetoric, the Labour opposition will not promise to put the top rate back to 50p. The Coalition Gov'ts opinion is that there are more effective ways to require the richest to pay, which is why the richest pay more now than they ever did under the last Gov't. I have no great hang-ups on principle here - just policy which delivers.

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