Church says inner cities no better after 10 years

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The Independent Online
The picture of deprivation and decay in Britain's inner cities and satellite estates has shown no improvement in a decade, and may even be worse, according to an influential study published yesterday.

Efforts to tackle this vicious cycle of decline with partnership initiatives by the Government, community, Church and private sector have failed.

Like Faith in the City, which was dismissed as "pure Marxist theology" in 1985, the Church of England's latest report was immediately greeted with derision by Tory politicians. But at the launch of the document, which drew from widely sourced research, the Bishops' Advisory Group on Urban Priority Areas stressed that it was not blaming any one quarter.

It challenges the General Synod to take up with the Government the "disturbing findings and campaign for more effective allocation of resources and a more just allocation of resources to bring about sustainable change".

Staying in the City shows that while incomes have grown by a third above prices over the decade, the gap between rich and poor has increased.

More people are dependent on benefits, which no longer increase in line with inflation, while tax changes have shifted the burden from higher to lower and middle income groups.

The polarisation of wealth is mirrored in the movement out of the inner cities by those in work, leaving greater levels of unemployment in deprived areas.The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tom Butler, speaking at the report's launch in London, said Britain's inner cities and outer estates were "in many cases, concentrations of severe deprivation, social exclusion, indignity and near despair".

John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, was dismayed the report had not emphasised the Government's achievements in the inner cities.

"I am sad there is not much more about the enormous amount that is being done and has been done," he told BBC radio. "When you are talking about pounds 1.3 billion a year in the new regeneration budget, it is a pity that the Church has not mentioned that. But of course we can always do more."

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