05/12/2012 08:11 GMT | Updated 05/12/2012 11:36 GMT

Bishops Lead Church Attack On Spending Cuts And Welfare Reform

Church leaders in the north of England have joined together to condemn government spending cuts and welfare reform that is 'stigmatising' communities.

Led by the the Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverent Nick Baines, 30 leading religious figures signed an open letter to the prime minister, the chancellor, the deputy prime minister and the Work and Pensions secretary, detailing their anxieties over how the reforms and cuts were playing out in their communities.

Titled 'A Christian Overview of Welfare Reform and Cuts in Public Spending', the letter said: "We are concerned that the theology behind many cuts and reforms serves to undermine fundamental principles of mutual care that are basic to our vision of a good society."

The signatories also expressed their concern over the imbalance in the UK economy to the detriment of those in the north compared to the south, particularly the South East.

The Bishop of Bradford said the government needed to know how its proposals were impacting on people who live outside London.

"They're not just dealing with figures in Whitehall, this is having an impact on people every day and the poorest are paying the highest," he said.

" Welfare reforms mean the poorest people are getting poorer, while the richest people are getting richer – and that’s a scandal.

“In Bradford we have 38,000 children living below the poverty line. That is something we cannot remain silent about.”

The church leaders were also angry with the way those on benefits were being stigmatised by politicians.

"We are.. disturbed that the political rhetoric that is increasingly used of benefits claimants, "scrounger" and "feckless" to name but two, stigmatises welfare in such a way that those who are in genuine need become reluctant to make claims, to the detriment of themselves, their families and the commuities in which they live."

However, the Bishop's claims were rejected by local Conservative MP, Kris Hopkins, who told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus: “There are a lot of people out there working very hard who are annoyed that there are other people who are not working and could be.

“We have got to spend what we have got and if the Bishop of Bradford is saying we should go back to the last government and start spending money we haven’t got, he is very wrong.”