Justin Welby backs calls for university tuition fees to be scrapped

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has strongly criticised cuts to councils' spending which has left them 'really struggling to meet a whole range of needs' and called on churches to open their doors to rough sleepers in response.

The archbishop also called for the scrapping of tuition fees, saying the cost of university education should be met by taxation.

ReutersArchbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Interviewed by students at Canterbury Christ Church university, Welby said: 'Councils have suffered such cuts in their spending capacity that they are really struggling to meet a whole range of needs. We've shown in the past we can do more, but they've got to be resourced to do it.'

He added that churches should accommodate rough sleepers, saying: 'There's a nationwide scheme ... where churches get together in groups of seven, and each church will take one night a week. It's one of the major contributions the churches make in this country: foodbanks, night shelters, debt counselling, those are the three great social engagement areas.'

He added that people living on the streets needed more than merely a place to sleep. 'You need to be able to cook for them. You need to be able to make sure they're comfortable, and warm, and safe,' he said.

'You've got to meet the need in a way that gives dignity to the people you are meeting the need for, and gives them security.'

Only 5 per cent of Church of England churches provided a night shelter for rough sleepers in 2017, according to a report from the C of E's church urban fund.

However, some churches help in other ways. The report said that 19 per cent of CofE churches run a food bank, and 8 per cent run a debt advice service, the report said.

On tuition fees, Welby told the students that these should be paid for by taxation rather than student fees, and that the 6 per cent interest charged on student loans was unfair.

He said: 'People like me who didn't pay tuition fees ... came away from university feeling like the country had given them something and they owed it. If you've paid for it, you've bought it, it's yours – why should you care about anyone else?'

He added that the 6 per cent interest rate on student loans was 'a commercial rate of interest, and much higher than they borrow at, so they're making a significant profit on lending it out'.

Interest should instead be pegged to the rate of inflation, he said.

Welby has recently published a highly political new book, Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope.