Open letter to party leaders: Don’t just talk about reducing inequality – make it a key objective of government.

According to pollsters, the proportion of the public saying inequality is one of the most important issues facing the country has more than doubled in the last five years; so party leaders from across the political spectrum are talking about inequality, attempting to demonstrate that they share the public’s concern, as they campaign for votes in the run-up to the general election.

But talking about inequality is not enough. Unless the next government has a clear target to reduce inequality, we can expect that amid the frantic business of government, measures are taken which have the unnoticed side-effect of exacerbating inequality, because no-one is accountable for making sure it doesn’t happen:  that tackling a root cause of social and economic problems is neglected in the rush to respond to the symptoms.

With this in mind, the Equality Trust, alongside prominent people from faith communities, published an open letter in the Sunday Times, calling on party leaders to commit to such a target. The full letter, as submitted, is shown below.


We represent organisations and individuals who are concerned about the scale and impact of economic inequality in the UK.

According to the British Social Attitudes Survey[1] , eight out of ten people agree that “the gap between those with high incomes and those with low incomes” is “too large”. The latest polling by Ipsos/MORI shows the public now regard “poverty/inequality” as one of the top five issues facing the country, above education, defence and housing.

This country has the fourth-highest level of income inequality of 29 developed countries[2]. There is overwhelming evidence that high levels of inequality have significant adverse effects, including damaging health[3] and social mobility[4], which have a high human and economic cost. We also note that increasing concerns are being raised, by respected international economic institutions including the IMF[5]and OECD[6], about the adverse effect of high levels of inequality on economic stability.

We believe that unless government adopts inequality-reduction as a priority, it is likely to be overlooked, allowing inequality – and its consequences – to escalate. We therefore ask all party leaders whether they will put on record whether their party, if elected to government this year, will agree to adopt inequality-reduction[7] as a key objective of Government?


Yours sincerely

  • Simon Barrow, Director, Ekklesia;
  • Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty;
  • Helen Drewery, General Secretary, Quaker Peace and Social Witness;
  • Duncan Exley, Director, Equality Trust;
  • Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener, Church of Scotland Church and Society Council;
  • Reverend David Grosch-Miller, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church;
  • Iain Johnston, Operations Director, Faith in Community Scotland;
  • Phil Jump, North Western Baptist Association regional minister;
  • Rowan Williams, The Rt Rev and the Rt Hon the Lord Williams of Oystermouth.


[1] British Social Attitudes 30; 2013;  annotated questionnaire (Q 379)

[2] Data from Luxembourg Income Study (LIS): Using OECD countries as an indicator of development status. Note that 5 of the 34 OECD countries did not provide sufficient data to LIS.

[3] K Pickett & R Wilkinson; “Income inequality and health: A causal review”; Social Science & Medicine; Dec 2014

[4] C Crawford, P Johnson, S Machin, A Vignoles; Social Mobility: A Literature Review; Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills; Mar 2011.

[5] J Ostry, A Berg, C Tsangarides; Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth; IMF; Apr 2014

[6] F Cingano; Trends in Income Inequality and Its Impact on Economic Growth, OECD SEM Working

Paper No. 163; 2014

[7] As measured by the data collected by the Family Resources Survey (after tax and benefits)