Letter: Gap between rich and poor widens

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Barnett Lecture given by the Archbishop of Canterbury and your thoughtful leading article (6 October) will be welcomed by all who work in our inner cities.

Toynbee Hall, where the lecture was given, was the first of many Settlements. A hundred years later there are still 60 of these multi-purpose centres in areas of the greatest deprivation. Those who work in them would echo much that was said by the Archbishop. Their cumulative experience is of a widening gap between rich and poor in Britain.

Government figures (Households Below Average Income) confirm that between 1979 and 1989 there was a growth in inequality, and highlight the decline in incomes of the poorest. In this period, average incomes increased by 30 per cent, but the incomes of the poorest decreased by 6 per cent.

The Archbishop is right to point to the worrying changes in both the power and the funding of local government. Those who work in community organisations know the effect of that at first hand, as many of them lose their funding and have to cut the services they deliver to local people. Whatever balance is struck between public, private and voluntary provision of social welfare, it is to be hoped that the needs of the poorest will be a controlling factor.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN MATTHEWS

British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres

London, SW9

6 October

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