28 October 2021, The Tablet

Budget a 'missed opportunity' say Catholic groups

Budget a 'missed opportunity' say Catholic groups

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak looks at a sweet shop during a visit to Bury Market in Lancashire today.
PA Images / Alamy

The 2021 budget has drawn a mixed response from Catholic and other Christian groups, as new spending commitments failed to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of pandemic-era measures, according to several charities. 

The rejection of family-friendly tax reforms proposed by a coalition of Catholic organisations earlier this month also prompted criticism, with the Catholic Union of Great Britain describing dismissal of the plans as a “missed opportunity”. 

One Catholic commentator hailed the Budget’s combination of high taxes and high public spending as the “death of Thatcherism.” Clifford Longley, a former adviser to the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales, said in The Tablet that promises to return to a low tax system were “hollow”, with the total tax burden continuing to outstrip any government since the 1940s. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a rise in the national minimum wage was praised by the debt help charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP), who said that the Budget’s announcements around income “good news” in spite of the £20 cut in the basic rate of universal credit.

But the rising cost of living, warned CAP’s director of external affairs, Gareth McNab, “will quickly outstrip these increases in income as inflation bites hard on those on the lowest incomes”. Without action to improve the position of sections of the population especially hard-hit by the pandemic, like the unemployed, the disabled, carers and single parents, “many will be left behind”.

The Children’s Society, a charity affiliated with the Church of England, joined in criticising the Budget: Some new funding was “n
owhere near enough to make up for years of declining spending on children’s services”.

The Government’s “package for families”, amounting to around £500 million of new funding, includes the creation of “family hubs” in 75 local authorities, and extra support for parents undergoing mental health problems.

Although the budget outlines £200 million in extra funding targeted at “the most vulnerable” families, the Children’s Society said in a statement that they were “hugely let down by the lack of commitment to improving the lives of families in financial crisis” – pointing to the impending closure of the household support fund in March 2022. 

The international charity Christian Aid attacked what they described as “further cuts to the UK’s aid budget”.  The Government’s designation of the the UK’s vaccine contribution and IMF Special Drawing Rights as part of the aid budget amounted to a real-terms cut of billions, they warned. Christian Aid argued that, against a global backdrop of famine and flooding, this decision amounted to a “betrayal of the world’s most marginalised people”.

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