Changes to the Welfare System

Christians have a duty to speak out about injustice. So itís not surprising that a large group of Church of England Bishops Ė including the Bishops of Worcester and Dudley - wrote to the Sunday Telegraph this week expressing their concern about the Governmentís Benefits Upratings Bill. This Bill will limit benefit increases to 1% a year until 2016.

I respect the concerns expressed by the Bishops, but I do not agree with them. Yes, it is below inflation increase, but it comes after last yearís very large one and is in line with whatís been happening to wages in both the public and private sector.

The Bishops say that the Treasury should be the one to take the risk of higher inflation, not families. But, the Treasury can only pass on the risk to all taxpayers. So what the Bishops are really arguing for is that the risk should be placed on the hard-pressed taxpayer. Thereís nowhere else for it to go.

The benefit system we inherited from the last Government is not only unaffordable, but it has trapped people in poverty and created a culture of entitlement. This sends out incredibly damaging signals that it pays not to work and that you are owed Ďsomething for nothingí.

Thereís nothing fair, or Christian, about a situation where a family on benefits can receive more in welfare payments than families working long hours and trying to make ends meet. Thatís why welfare reform is now so popular.

Itís worth remembering that the Coalition Government has cut income tax for 25 million people, taking over 2.2 million low income individuals out of income tax altogether. At the same time it has increased taxes on the wealthy, including raising stamp duty on expensive properties and restricting tax reliefs. The top rate of income tax will be higher under this Government than under any year of the previous administration and the rich are now paying a higher percentage of income tax than at any time in living memory.

There would only be one way to raise the money to pay for higher benefits and thatís to tax all of us Ė and then hand the money back to many of us in benefits. What would be the sense of that?

In order to deal with the deficit and to make sure we donít burden our children and grandchildren with huge debts we have to get our welfare spending under control.


Back to Articles