Showing posts with label general assembly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label general assembly. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poor as a church mouse!

In a hard-hitting speech to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, businessman Professor Charles Munn said that, as a society, “we have made a mess of our economy and in the process have done a lot of damage...We are party to growing inequality, rising poverty, rising homelessness,” he said. “The rich are doing ok. The poor are getting poorer. “And it’s not just the poor that are getting poorer, pretty much everybody else is suffering as a result of the economic crisis.”

Rev Ian Galloway, departing convener of the influential Church and Society Council, attacked the UK government’s deficit reduction strategy, saying “If austerity means we all have to tighten our belts – and maybe especially those who can most afford it – then so be it. But what is really happening is that the most vulnerable are being punished out of all proportion.” He said that while austerity had a “stiff upper lip quality about it”, the reality was “somewhat different”. “Food banks, places for desperate people to find something to eat are opening across the UK at a rate of one every four days,” he said.

The  Church of Scotland says it cannot afford to pay staff in its care homes the living wage – despite a proposal from a special Kirk commission that all employees should be guaranteed the £7.20 per hour rate. The report of the Commision on the Purposes of Economic Activity, chaired by Professor Charles Munn, which recommended that all Church of Scotland agencies and congregations be instructed to implement the living wage.

The commission condemned growing inequality, the “corrosive” effect of the bonus culture and called for the living wage – defined as the minimum needed for a worker to provide his or her family with the essentials of life – to be brought in “with all possible speed”.

But the Kirk’s social care arm CrossReach, whose work includes operating around 24 elderly care homes across the country, has made clear it just does not have the money to pay the living wage to all its 2000 staff. CrossReach staff are already paid more than the national minimum wage, but have had no cost-of-living rises for the past two years.

In a separate report, the Kirk’s church and society council said it would be “an important demonstration of our commitment to justice and poverty eradication” if by 2015 all churches could move towards paying the living wage. But it said: “It is recognised there are barriers to congregations achieving a Living Wage for their employees, not least that resources are scarce during this economic downturn.”

As well as backing the living wage, their report proposed a maximum interest rate for all kinds of consumer credit, urged the expansion of credit unions to take the place of such pay day loan organisations, as safer ways of accessing loans. The Kirk has attacked companies that make pay day loans with sky-high interest rates, accusing them of causing “a great deal of damage in our society” and calling for greater regulation. Professor Charles Munn said interest rates charged by so-called “pay day loan companies” were a prime concern. “We were very conscious that the levels of interest rates some people are paying for consumer credit, that means very often people borrowing money just to meet very basic human needs, some were using pay day loan companies, some of which charge 4,000 per cent interest for their loans,” he said.

 Prof Munn also criticised the UK government’s handling of the tax system, saying that the commission had been “appalled” at the huge number of organisations, companies and individuals involved in tax evasion. Taxes should be seen as “a social obligation akin to loving one’s neighbour”. !!