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Bishop: Church cannot carry burden of state

Fri 31 Dec 2010

The government should not expect the Church of England to carry the burden of the state over the next few years, the Bishop of Leicester has said.

According to the Right Reverend Tim Stevens, there are concerns among some about whether David Cameron's flagship Big Society policy represents a "veil" for major spending cuts.

He insisted that while the Church of England is prepared to play a bigger role in supporting the most vulnerable people in society, it cannot be expected to "carry that load" alone while the budget squeeze is underway.

Speaking to the Guardian, Bishop Stevens said this is because expecting "amateurs" to care for the needy would be "completely irresponsible".

He urged faith groups to be realistic about the level of responsibility they can take on, particularly as they have already been told they will not receive extra funding.

John Rees, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors, commented: "It is of particular concern that we have heard rumours that the Charity Commission are to cut back on staffing in sectors that affect religious charities.

"If this is true, it is not just ironic but likely to be seriously counterproductive. Both the government and the Church want to do all in their power to see the Church's limited resources being put to best use, and this often means simplifying and restructuring its many associated charitable trusts - which it cannot do without the active involvement of the Charity Commission."

Bishop Stevens added that that the government's Big Society policy will give the Church of England a good opportunity to engage with policymakers about its wider role and showcase its work to members of the public.

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