The Big Society and Public Spending Cuts – Archbishop of York expresses concerns

The Church employs more youth workers than any other organization and is involved on a daily basis trying to make the lives of young people better. What I am trying to say is that the Church understands the importance of volunteering and being active in our communities. As one of my predecessors, Archbishop William Temple said, “The Church is the only organisation that exists for the wellbeing and fraternity of its non-members”.

But what we must not forget that the state has responsibilities too.

There is a reason we pay our taxes. Whilst it is easy to pretend that much of our hard earned cash goes to fund expense fiddling MPs, disreputable casino-style banks or mad politically-correct quangoes for do-gooders – actually we should expect the state to run and fund strong public services, with our money.

How to raise that money is another question. I am not an economist, and I am not a politician, but to cut investment to vital public services, and to withdraw investment from communities, is madness.

You do not escape an economic downturn by cutting investment and by squashing aspirations.

The Government has signalled for a long time that cuts must be put in place to tackle the economic deficit. The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is the swinging axe that follows the cuddly blanket and soothing words of “The Big Society”.

I know many people today will be afraid of what the Government cuts outlined in the CSR will mean for them and their families.

I think we would all accept that this is a difficult time for our country economically. There are difficult choices to be made, and real debates to be had about what is the best way forward. Debate, discussion and compromise can all be positive when those involved are conducting themselves in the right spirit. However we need to ensure that no-one is left behind.

The promotion of social justice should be a primary moral imperative for any government, and for every publicly funded institution. For when the government puts the promotion of social justice at its heart, we can stand together as one nation, as one people in solidarity with each other, recognizing the dignity of all, and affording all fair and equal opportunities for access and services. Freedom, fraternity and informed choice must characterise our social fabric.”

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