King’s speech fails to address ongoing cost of living crisis
Date Posted: Tuesday 7th November 2023
Commenting on the King’s Speech, Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director at the Women’s Budget Group said:
“Today’s speech was a missed opportunity to address the real and pressing issues facing society today. While economic growth was placed centre-stage, there was no mention of how the Government plans to address the ongoing cost of living crisis.
Women are more likely to rely on social security, be in low paid, insecure forms of work, and have lower levels of savings. They are therefore already living with the impacts of the rise in the cost of living, going without food and other essentials for themselves to ensure their families needs are met and increasingly getting into greater debt and being made or threatened with being made homeless as we go into another punishing winter. We needed a King’s speech that addressed these realities and set out a meaningful plan of support for those who most need it.
It’s unfortunate that on the day that the UN Special Rapporteur, Olivier De Schutter, describes the UK’s welfare system as ‘grossly insufficient’ and a ‘leaking bucket’, the King’s speech only made a vague reference to reforming welfare and supporting more people into work. This is more than disappointing, it’s a huge cause for concern particularly since communication from the Government suggests that ‘reforms’ mean tougher sanctions which will push more families into poverty.
We need to address the current energy crisis and support individuals and families in the immediate term, while taking us into a sustainable path to reduce energy consumption and move away from fossil fuels. Millions of households face another winter of choosing between heating or eating. Targeted support is needed for the most vulnerable and should be funded by a windfall tax on excess energy profits, with a removal of deductions and subsidies to oil and gas producers. Instead the Government is running towards the very energy sources we should be phasing out. The climate and ecological crises and the impacts of rising temperatures around the world – including here in the UK – will last beyond any government term, and should not be used as a political football.
We know that unpaid care is the root cause of women’s economic inequality, with women more likely to be economically inactive, in low-paid, part-time or precarious forms of work, and thus more likely to be dependent on social security and public services. If the Government is serious about boosting the economy and addressing inequality it must also address the serious challenges facing the childcare and social care sectors, both of which are in desperate need of political focus and reform.”
About the Women’s Budget Group
The UK Women’s Budget Group (WBG) is the UK’s leading feminist economics think tank, providing evidence and analysis on women’s economic position and proposing policy alternatives for a gender-equal economy. We act as a link between academia, the women’s voluntary sector and progressive economic think tanks.