Standing with the vulnerable

by Richard on October 19, 2010

We will judge spending cuts on how they affect the most vulnerable, says Methodist president

Addressing a rally organised by the Trade Union Congress today, Revd Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference, raised concerns that spending cuts will hit the poor hardest.

Speaking on the eve of the comprehensive spending review at Methodist Central Hall Westminster, Alison said; “The past ten to fifteen years of boom benefited some sections of society but not the poorest. Relatively their income went down. Justice or, to use that popular word, ‘fairness’ demand that they do not suffer now during the bust.

“Earlier this month Eric Pickles asked us to judge the government on how they treated the most vulnerable. That we will do.

“The task the government has set itself of cutting the deficit to zero in a short space of time while not harming the most vulnerable is a difficult one, some may say an impossible one. We shall wait and see but the initial signs are not promising.

“Brief conversations with colleagues highlight the fears that they have for the work going on in the communities they serve. The people whose compassion and hard work have created and sustained each of these projects will not be sleeping well tonight. And they will rightly be wondering about the meaning of the phrase “Big Society”.

Alison concluded: “John Wesley, and the Methodist Church he founded, believe it is inconceivable to follow Christ and not have the welfare of the poor and the vulnerable close to your heart, and we are proud to stand beside others who share those concerns today.”

The full text of the address is ‘below the fold’

“You may not have noticed but this but you are sitting in a Methodist Church, where a vibrant multi-cultural congregation meet each Sunday. When you came in on the first floor on your left there was a life size statue of John Wesley the founder of the Methodist Church. You may have missed it - he was a very short man.

“In his journals he wrote about a press that stigmatised the poor, he wrote of politicians who did not wish to look at the concerns of the poor, and who continually blamed the poor for their own fate. He wrote of people using that stigma and blame to continually treat the poorest and most vulnerable badly. Thanks goodness that was 250 years ago and could never happen now!

“The past ten to fifteen years of boom benefited some sections of society but not the poorest. Relatively their income went down. Justice or, to use that popular word, ‘fairness’ demand that they do not suffer now during the bust.

“Earlier this month Eric Pickles asked us to judge the government on how they treated the most vulnerable. That we will do.

“The task the government has set itself of cutting the deficit to zero in a short space of time while not harming the most vulnerable is a difficult one, some may say an impossible one. We shall wait and see but the initial signs are not promising.

“Brief conversations with colleagues highlight the fears that they have for the work going on in the communities they serve. Local authorities and others are tightening their belts prior to the CSR. Just in the last week I have been told about
• an emergency housing project in Birmingham at threat
• a project in Newcastle working with women seeking sanctuary
• a young offender rehabilitation project in Liverpool wondering if it must close

“The church is grateful to be able to work with these and hundreds of other projects like them up and down the country. The people whose compassion and hard work have created and sustained each of these projects will not be sleeping well tonight. And they will rightly be wondering about the meaning of the phrase “Big Society”.

“This building was built a hundred years ago using money donated by ordinary Methodists. To ensure this was a building of ordinary people initially no-one was allowed to donate more than one guinea. Rich and the poor alike. In the historic roll, which you can see on the left as you leave the building, the names of all the people who gave one guinea, including my grandparents, are recorded.

“This hall was built because Methodists believed that ordinary people, people who could afford no more than one guinea, should have a voice in the heart of Westminster. Hearing today’s contributions, the stories of ordinary people, the concern for ordinary people, I am confident my grandparents would have felt that theirs was a guinea well spent.

“Methodists support a wide range of views about deficit reduction. It is possible to be a Christian and a member of almost any political party. John Wesley and the Methodist Church he founded, believe it is inconceivable to follow Christ and not have the welfare of the poor and the vulnerable close to your heart, and we are proud to stand beside others who share those concerns today.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1

dh 10.19.10 at 4:45 pm

There are way more efficient ways to help the poor than big government. When one looks at the poor one cannot forget to focus on policies that prevent more people from being poor and big government is not the answer for that as well.

Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have - Thomas Jefferson

The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.-Thomas Jefferson

Most bad government has grown out of too much government.-Thomas Jefferson

Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have - Thomas Jefferson In addtion: If a government is big enough to have the ability to take everything you have then it has the ability to create more poor than is otherwise there.

2

Kim 10.19.10 at 4:55 pm

Let’s just make sure we have enough ££ to go on fighting an immoral and unwinnable war in Afghanistan - oh, and be ready to bail out profligate and greedy bankers and financiers again ( for there will be an “again”) . The poor, the sick, the elderly, education and infrastructure, let alone the environment - we can’t afford to see to them, though, of course, “we’re all in this together”, and our pain will be equitably shared.

Spending cuts have got nothing to do with what we can afford, and everything to do with where the government’s priorities lie - which can be found in the nether regions where the sun don’t shine.

3

dh 10.19.10 at 5:12 pm

Kim, those things are not zero sum games. In fact wealth and lack of wealth are not a zero sum game as well.

“Spending cuts have got nothing to do with what we can afford….”

Say that to Greece, Spain and Portugal who have or had the “big society” things you desire and look at where there budgets and economies ly , flat broke and can’t afford to do that let alone the basics to run a economy.

While I agree that the poor should be helped to some degree by the government, I believe it can’t afford to the level that we all desire. There are so many more ways to help the poor than just government. To focus solely on government as the answer really creates in the future more poor people than otherwise. I also would much rather be poor and live without a tyrannt than live rich with a tyrannt. To call Afghanistan an “immoral war” when that is thing that is and will prevent future major terrorist attacks similar to 9/11 shows ones denial of reality.

4

Earl 10.19.10 at 9:53 pm

England is not alone in having to face the very unhappy consequences of living a Cadillac lifestyle on a Chevrolet budget. After far to long a time of spending other people’s money, a time of financial reckoning has arrived for those who write the government checks. In London it appears significant steps are being taken to deal with reality. In just a few more days voters on this side of the pond will send a message about government expansion and waste to those who walk the halls of Congress and those who reside at 1600 Penn. Ave. There is hope for real change. Hope is a good thing.

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