Rising inequality is a national scandal that should be addressed by a voluntary top-up tax system and a crackdown on “sinful” tax avoiders, the archbishop of York has said.
People who are willing to pay more tax towards health, education and social care should be able to do so through voluntary, hypothecated payments, John Sentamu told the Guardian.
“Income inequality is the cause of all our trouble. Inequality leads to huge social problems,” he said.
A resurgence in cases of scarlet fever, which recently hit a 50-year high, illustrated growing inequality and malnutrition. The disease, which was a common cause of death in children in Victorian times, “had been wiped out and is now re-emerging in poor communities. Hello, what is going on here?”
Sentamu expressed concern at a parliamentary report this week that found at least 1.3 million older people in the UK were at risk of “withering away” from hunger and isolation.
An Oxfam report showed that 42 individuals in the world hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the global population. Nearly three-quarters of people in the UK want the government to urgently address the income gap, a survey for the charity found.
Sentamu also pointed to a 2017 British Social Attitudes survey, which found 48% of respondents favoured higher taxes to pay for more spending on health, education and social benefits. Only 4% said they wanted taxes to be cut, and 44% said tax rates should stay the same.
“If citizens are willing to pay more, there needs to be a mechanism to do so. I call it top-up,” said Sentamu.
People were worried that higher taxes would be absorbed into general government spending. “The government should say it would guarantee that these tax increases will go towards health, education and social care. There’s no reason why it can’t be done.”