The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) has today published its comprehensive assessment of how the measures announced in the 2016 Budget will impact on women and gender equality.
In launching the response, Dr Eva Neitzert said:
The Chancellor, George Osborne opened his Budget with a claim to ‘put the next generation first.’ Yet he delivered a Budget that threatens to deepen inequalities and undermine the essential services – the care, education and health systems – that are the bedrocks of a secure society.
And women again stand to gain the least, and lose the most in a Budget that prioritises tax cuts for the better off and a lower rate of corporation tax at the expense of essential services and protecting the incomes of the poorest.
We are disappointed that the Chancellor has again failed to produce an adequate Equalities Impact Assessment of the Budget, despite having been shown methods that are straightforward to use by the EHRC.
Analysis by the House of Commons library that includes measures announced in the 2016 Budget finds that, cumulatively, 86% of savings in the period from 2010-2020 will have come from women’s pockets. This is up from 81% after the joint Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review in November 2015.
Our own analysis, which additionally factors in public service cuts and includes all announcements up to and including the joint Autumn Financial Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review in November 2015, shows that female-headed households will see the largest drop in living standards over the 2010-20 period due to policy changes brought in by the coalition government and the current Conservative government. By 2020, female lone parents and single female pensioners will, on average, have seen their living standards fall by 20% compared with what would have happened had these policy measures not been introduced. Crucially, our analysis shows that the policies of this Conservative government will have a greater regressive and gender-biased impact than those of the previous Coalition government.
The Chancellor is making a political choice about who will gain, and who will lose out, from his government’s policies. These are not decisions driven by economic necessity. The total cumulative foregone revenue of all the changes to income tax thresholds since June 2010 is estimated to be around £20.5bn per annum by 2020–21, dwarfing the ‘necessary’ cuts to welfare spending of £12bn in this Parliament.
There is an alternative that provides the foundations for an equitable, fair and sustainable economic recovery by investing in the social infrastructure – the education, health and care services we all rely on to lead healthy and secure lives.
Such investment in the social infrastructure makes sense not only because it delivers better social outcomes but also because it delivers better economic returns than continued austerity. Research published last month by the Women’s Budget Group shows that investing 2% of GDP in the care sector has the potential to generate 1.5 million jobs, nearly twice as many as a comparable investment in construction.
Despite proclamations to the contrary, the Chancellor has set out an extremely short-term vision in his Budget. To deliver for the next generation, we call on the Chancellor to invest in Britain’s future by making high-quality public services a priority.