Responding to the Chancellor’s 2014 Budget statement, the Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev David Urquhart said:
“There is much to welcome in today’s Budget announcement, not least the news that economic growth is strengthening, the long awaited transferable tax allowance for married couples, and the new funds to help restore the fabric of some our nation’s great Cathedrals.
The increasingly confident economic outlook is good news. The crucial challenge will be to ensure that the stewardship of the economy takes into account the need for those at the lower end of the income scale or at the margins of society to share fully in the proceeds of growth.
The reaffirmation by the Chancellor of our country’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our national income on overseas development assistance is an important demonstration of our national commitment to those in the greatest need.
I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s announcement today that from next April, the Coalition will fulfill its commitment to introduce a transferable tax allowance for married couples. The policy is a welcome step in the right direction in supporting those who choose marriage as a means to formalize their commitment. Government can and should go further, including addressing imbalances within the tax system that, as recent research has shown, continue to place an emphasis against single income earner families.
The news that £20 million will also be provided over two years to assist in the maintenance and repair of our nation’s Cathedrals is also greatly appreciated. Cathedrals are a part of the historic fabric of the country, important heritage sites welcoming many visitors and, most importantly, places where a growing number of people are encountering God.
Issues of credit and debt are of great concern to those in the churches, so the Budget’s emphasis on promoting a positive climate around personal saving is helpful. I strongly support the Chancellor’s commitment to thrift – an objective that the Church of England is promoting through the Archbishop’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings. However greater emphasis in the Budget on promoting saving on the part of those on lower incomes - who are most in need of the financial buffer savings provide – would have been welcome, since  households with little or no personal savings are unlikely to be helped by increases in maximum annual ISA cash contributions or the abolition of the 10p tax rate on income from savings.
The potential impact of the overall cap on welfare is most troubling. Inflation-only increases will mean that many working-age families on low incomes, including the two-thirds of children in poverty whose parents are in work, are likely to continue to bear the brunt of further cuts in public spending. The poorest working families will benefit little from further increases in the personal tax allowance, either because they are already earning less than the current threshold or because most of the increase in their net earnings will be deducted from their benefits. Contrary to the rhetoric, it is not low income households who benefit most from these changes, but those on middle and higher incomes.”
 Rt Revd David Urquhart leads on economic and financial policy matters for the bishops in the House of Lords. Some of his recent contributions in Parliament can be viewed here.
 A recent survey by HSBC found that a third of households – 8.8m in total – have less than £250 in savings, and a quarter had no savings at all.
You can download an image of Bishop David by clicking here.