Women's Budget Group - Spring Statement: Promise of ‘end of austerity’ rings hollow

Social security frozen for another year and public services are in crisis 

Responding to the spring financial statement Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, the Director of the Women’s Budget Group said today:
 
‘The repeated promise that austerity is coming to an end will ring hollow for the millions of low waged, disabled and unemployed people who will see their social security and tax credits frozen for another year from April.
 
Schemes to tackle period poverty are addressing symptom not the cause. The Government should be taking action to tackle the underlying of poverty, which is the reason so many women and girls (who are more likely to be poor than men) cannot afford sanitary products. 
 
The Chancellor said nothing about the benefit freeze, which is set to continue for another year, and is has been the single biggest driver of the increase in poverty in the UK. Continuing the freeze will cost poorer families £560 a year on average. Lone parents (the majority of whom are women) and their children will continue to be the hardest hit. The freeze won’t just make it hard to afford tampons and sanitary towels, it represents several months food bills for a poorer family. 
 
Nor did Phillip Hammond take action to address the crisis in public services. Central government funding for local government has been cut in half and is set for further cuts. 

Social care is facing cuts to funding at a time of rising demand. 1.4 million people over 65 have unmet care needs. We have seen youth services cut by 65%, a 48% cut in subsidised bus services and a cut of 12% in further education services.  10% of libraries have closed with many more now run largely by volunteers with declining new stock.  1000 Sure Start centres and almost 350 playgrounds have closed since 2014.  
 
Rising knife crime is not just the result of cuts to police numbers. It is a symptom of the systematic destruction of our local social infrastructure. 

Overshadowing today’s statement is the looming disaster of Brexit. The chancellor is right to point out that a no deal Brexit would be devastating for the economy. But the Government’s proposed deal would also leave us poorer with GDP around 4% lower than it would have been had the UK remained in the EU.  Trade with the EU in services will be particularly badly affected, falling by around 60%. This will disproportionately impact women, since a higher proportion of women than men work in the service sector.
 
The Chancellor’s fiscal target has proved yet again to be a moveable feast, showing that it was based on ideology rather than economic necessity. If money can be found to deal with the self-inflicted disaster of Brexit it can be found to restore our public services and end child poverty.’

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