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Dean of Blackburn appalled by ‘cuts bias’ against North
4:42pm Thursday 21st March 2013 in News
THE Dean of Blackburn has written to government ministers about the ‘appalling’ treatment of the area in Whitehall spending cuts compared to the South of England.
The Very Rev Christopher Armstrong warns Chancellor George Osborne and local government secretary Eric Pickles: “I dread to imagine the consequences of any further cuts here in Blackburn.”
He said clergy were seeing the effects of the disproportionate government cuts affecting towns in the North West, especially East Lancashire, in their daily work.
His letter, copied to Blackburn Labour MP Jack Straw and Darwen Tory MP Jake Berry, tells the Tory cabinet ministers: “There is a widespread understanding and sympathy for radical decisions which have to be made to control government spending. However, what is puzzling and frustrating for many towns and cities in the North is the disproportionate level of cuts.
“For instance, according to government statistics the Borough of Blackburn with Darwen will lose £268 per person, the Borough of Richmond on Thames will lose £39 per person. This is an appalling discrepancy which requires some explanation.
“Blackburn Cathedral lies in the centre of the town.
“Over the last three years, from simple observation by myself and the Cathedral staff, the number of people coming for help has increased exponentially. We supply emergency food parcels to all who call.
“The local foodbank, recently established, is very busy.
“Plans to change council tax, welfare caps and bedroom tax are, frankly, unsustainable for many folk in the borough.
“I fear for them and for the stability of a region which already gladly supports many asylum seekers and yet suffers from a life expectancy at least eight years below the national average. I dread to imagine the consequences of any further cuts here in Blackburn.”
Mr Straw said: “The Dean is right. The bias arises partly because so few Conservative MPs represent hard hit urban areas outside London.”
Mr Berry said: “I welcome the Church getting inolved in public debate and I will happily provide the Dean with figures showing how the Government has protected the poorest boroughs including Blackburn with Darwen.”
A government spokesman said Mr Osborne and Mr Pickles would carefully consider the points raised by the Dean and reply in due course.