UK Budget Assessments
WBG Response to HM Treasury’s Budget 2008
Date Posted: Monday 17th March 2008
The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Budget 2008. We held a meeting of our members on Budget Day to examine the proposals and subsequently conducted an analysis of their impact on women.
We would be grateful if you would send a copy of the gender impact assessment made by your officials of the Budget proposals; pending sight of the document, we would make the observation that the Budget report itself still lacks an explicitly gendered analysis. The process of looking at the economic outcomes of the Budget through a gendered perspective provides a better evidence base for policy making and is a statutory requirement under the gender equality duty. The government must carry out a gender impact analysis of all policy initiatives – much of what follows in our response would have been anticipated by a gender impact analysis.
We welcome the emphasis of this Budget on efforts to end child poverty. However, we are disappointed that you did not take the opportunity to address the acute and chronic funding crisis in sexual and domestic violence services within the women’s voluntary sector. In the last 10 years rape crisis centres have been closing, leaving many women with nowhere to turn. As less than 10% of rapes are reported to the criminal justice system, non-statutory provision represents an essential and trusted source of support for women. While we welcome the announcement of the March 19th of a one-off injection of funds into rape crisis centres, we would have welcomed an acknowledgement of this in the budget, together with a clear commitment to sustainable funding for rape crisis centres and other women-only support services for violence against women.
We have set out below the key issues on which we wish to comment in detail. The majority of our comments are directed towards the areas addressed in Chapter 4: Fairness and Opportunity for All.
1. We welcome the Government’s considerable investment in poverty initiatives, and the fact that the key measures announced to end child poverty (Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit increases) will go to the primary carer – and will therefore in most cases go directly into women’s purses instead of men’s wallets, even though this will not be sufficient to meet the target of halving child poverty.
2. We are concerned about the impact on women of the loss of the 10% tax band. First, we believe reducing the number of tax bands is a step away from progressive taxation, which we think is the fairest form of raising revenue. Specifically, we believe this is also a move away from gender equality: women are over represented among the low-paid, and the compensating payments made via the working tax credit are made to the main earner of the household, rather than to women individually. This move from the individual to the household disadvantages women and is a hidden form of disadvantage, as those 3 responsible for preparing the Budget 2008 do not seem to be aware of the significance of the allocation of resources within households. This issue is relevant to any consideration of poverty among children and women.
3. We are disappointed that the Budget says nothing about out-of-work benefit levels for adults and believe that inadequate adult rates are undermining the child poverty strategy. We strongly recommend that the rationale for a lower rate for those aged under 25 is reconsidered, particularly from the perspective of young mothers and mothers-to-be.
4. We welcome the Government’s decision to base eligibility for the national rollout of the Savings Gateway on the individual rather than the household. This could help women build up savings to protect themselves against economic shocks. However, measures to promote personal savings are not a substitute for adequate social protection. Strategies to encourage savings must be accompanied by policies to improve benefit levels for adults in particular.
5. Following the report of the Women and Work Commission, the Government made a welcome investment of around £40 million to build women’s skills. We are disappointed to note that in the budget, the only ongoing commitment to this crucial area is £5 million to the Skills Sector Councils. We believe this is wholly inadequate. If the recommendations of the Women and Work Commission are to be implemented, the requisite funding needs to be found to do so.