'It is damaging to the spiritual health of the nation to allow cuts in public expenditure which affect the poor in order to maintain current rates of direct taxation,' according to the seven, who form the Church's Urban Bishops Panel.
'A healthy society is one where all people acknowledge their responsibility for one another, accepting the cost to themselves,' their statement says. The most prominent bishop in the group is the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev David Sheppard. He has often clashed with Conservative governments in his efforts to defend the living standards of his flock.
'Cuts across the board in public expenditure appear to be fair, but in fact mean that there are no priorities for those in greatest need,' the statement says.
The urban bishops' panel does not speak for the whole of the Church of England.
A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday that 'Dr Carey has not seen this; nor would he expect to. These are heavyweight bishops in their own right and what they have said stands on its own merits in their own names.'