Dr John Sentamu claimed many of the wealthiest in society are avoiding paying their dues in a stinging attack on the growing divide between Britain’s rich and poor.
Highlighting the growing gulf between the poorest sections of society and the nation’s uber-wealthy, Dr Sentamu also said those who have accumulated the biggest fortunes should not be included on the Queen’s Honours List.
The Archbishop admitted there needs to be a cultural shift in the nation’s ideology as wealth has “for so long been seen as a mark of status”.
But he maintained the Queen’s honours should not be given to “those who have already rewarded themselves most handsomely”.
“To have to choose between two coveted sources of honour and prestige would be salutary,” he said. “On the same basis, it might be worth extending this to the Queen’s Awards to Industry so that companies with the largest pay differences between senior and junior staff would know that they were less likely to win these awards.”
Writing in today’s Yorkshire Post, Dr Sentamu has launched a broadside against the figures at the helm of Britain’s leading companies, and claimed their massive salaries could not be justified – especially to their own staff.
The revelation that CEOs of the FTSE 100 companies received average pay increases of almost 50 per cent last year was a clear indication of the huge discrepancies within Britain’s society, he said.
“Typically these CEOs receive 300 times as much as the least well paid British employees in their companies,” he added.
“If they have a responsibility to their staff, it is hard to imagine a more powerful way of telling some people that they are of little value than to pay them one-third of one per cent of your own salary. Top pay has been found to bear little or no relation to company performance, but even if it did, isn’t the performance of a company dependent on the work and well-being of all its staff?”
Dr Sentamu warned the widening gap between the richest and poorest sections of society would have dire social consequences with increasing child poverty, social mobility slowing down and growing divisions based on class and status.
But perhaps the most radical aspect of his assessment of Britain’s precarious financial state is his clarion call for a shift in the national psyche about the super- wealthy. Instead of so much emphasis being placed on accruing vast fortunes, Dr Sentamu claimed greed should be made as socially unacceptable as racism, homophobia and the discrimination of women.
He said: “Changes in public attitudes can take place quite quickly. Over the last few decades racism has lost its respectability and is seen as unacceptable.
“The same applies to homophobia and discrimination against women. My belief and trust is that a society which has shown itself capable of making such rapid changes to attitudes in these areas will also prove capable of recognising that our society will work best when we recognise that as human beings we are all, fundamentally of equal worth and members of one society.”
Dr Sentamu also sets out a vision for a more transparent tax system to provide a clearer insight into how much the super-wealthy are paying to help finance the running of the country. He maintained tax avoidance by both rich individuals and multi-national companies must be addressed.
The Archbishop suggested tax forms should have a box to tick to state the amount that is being paid can be made public. “Not to tick the box would suggest that you felt you had something to hide.
“Given the Government’s attempts to reduce the public spending deficit, each thousand pounds of tax avoided presumably means an additional thousand pounds of cuts to public services on which the least well off are particularly dependent.”