Women left behind in the Autumn Statement

women against the cutsThis blog first appeared on the TUC’s Touchstone Blog and is written on behalf of the Women’s Budget Group.

This morning’s Autumn Statement felt rather too familiar. Not only because the headlines were leaked to the press in advance but also because, once again, women were left behind.

Osborne congratulated himself on the indicators of recovery, but at the Women’s Budget Group we asked, recovery for who?

Unemployment is falling, yet women’s unemployment has fallen by less than 4% since 2011, half as fast as men’s (9%). Real earnings are not recovering; instead they have continued to fall for both men (0.4 % for gross hourly earnings) and for women (0.7%). As the cost of living rises and progress on the gender pay gap stalls, inequality only becomes further entrenched.

Yet again the Chancellor’s announcement focused on investment in physical infrastructure and said nothing about care services for children, elderly and disabled people. Investment in social infrastructure is just as important for the long-term health of the country and the further £3 billion cuts in public spending will continue to hurt women the most.

The £700 million married couples tax allowance would be better spent elsewhere. Only 18% of families with children will benefit from this measure. This money will go to the higher earner (the vast majority of whom are men) which will worsen income inequality within married couples.

Taxation policy is no place for moralistic judgements and the tax allowance will not help Britain’s poorest families: couples where both partners earn below the basic tax rate or lone parents (92% of whom are women). What’s more it appears this announcement is only the thin end of the wedge as Osborne promises to extend this tax allowance in the future.

In September 2013 the Women’s Budget Group argued for Plan F – economic recovery for gender equality but this financial statement does nothing towards that.

George Osborne claims Britain’s economy is on the up, but with low wages, spiraling costs of living and a dramatic decrease in social security, whose boat is lifted by the rising tide?

Women are feeling the pinch more than most, and the Autumn Financial Statement does little to alleviate the pain.

Bad news for most: The Chancellor’s spending review holds little hope for women

I was delighted to have this article posted on the TUC’s Touchstone blog on 02/07/2013.

Bad news for most: The Chancellor’s spending review holds little hope for women

Last week members of the Women’s Budget Group met to watch and discuss the Chancellor’s spending review for 2015 – 2016. Predictably it held few surprises: more cuts, more austerity and a few titbits to keep the voting public happy in advance of the 2015 election.

Of course there was some good news – the budget for the NHS remains safe from cuts and overseas development spending continues to be set at 0.7% of GDP. For every public sector job that has been lost, three private sector jobs have been created, and the Chancellor also announced a huge investment in physical infrastructure – roads, rail and nuclear power stations. Which has got to be good, right?

Well not quite.

The Chancellor’s ‘good news’ announcements cover up a multitude of sins. Again we see local authorities bearing the brunt of the cuts with their budgets being slashed by a further 10%. Local Governments provide essential services to women and women’s organisations. Successful programmes like Sure Start now have a future as uncertain as the children they support.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport faces a cut of 7% but many of us balked when Osborne announced that ‘elite sport’ would be protected whilst many local sports clubs face cuts or even closure.  All of these reductions take place whilst the Chancellor has somehow found enough money to protect the defence budget.

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