UK Budget Assessments
The Impact on Women of the Autumn Financial Statement 2011
Date Posted: Tuesday 17th January 2012
2011 Autumn FS
A Happy New Year? Welcome to six more years of austerity that will further undermine gender equality
British Chancellor George Osborne made an alarming admission in his Autumn Financial Statement at the end of last year: his economic policies will require six more years of austerity, lasting beyond the end of this parliament and well into the next one. The Coalition government’s policies have already had a negative impact on most women through the loss of jobs, income and services (see Appendix); additional measures announced in the Statement will intensify those losses for all but the richest women.
Mr Osborne was forced to admit that his policies have not produced an increase in jobs or a recovery in production. In 2011, net job losses in the public sector far outweighed net job creation in the private sector. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts, published on the same day as the Statement, anticipate job losses in the public sector of 710,000, a huge increase on the 400,000 losses previously forecast. The OBR also predict that unemployment will rise to 2.8 million and living standards will continue to fall to at least 2013.
The Chancellor announced measures that he claimed would stimulate economic growth: tax breaks; improved access to credit; and £5bn for capital projects as part of the National Infrastructure Plan. The £5bn for infrastructure sounds impressive until you realize that it amounts to less than 0.1% of GDP per annum, and will be paid for by reducing spending and cutting back elsewhere. Such cuts include a new public sector pay freeze and the freezing of the lone parent and child elements of the working tax credit, at a time when inflation is more than 5% a year.
The Coalition government has intensified its reliance on spending cuts rather than tax increases to cut the budget deficit: it plans that 80% of the deficit reduction in the final years of its plan should be achieved through expenditure cuts, and just 20% through increases in tax revenue. In addition, the government continues to oppose a financial transactions tax, an alternative source of funds for the public purse, despite widespread support from other EU governments.
What is the likely impact of these new measures on women? What are the implications for gender equality? In spite of his legal obligations to provide an equalities impact assessment, the Chancellor made no attempt to tell us.