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Reaction to the Autumn Statement

Our Training Lead, Heather Williams, reflects on yesterday's budget announcements.


With any budget or Autumn Statement it is often said “the devil is in the detail”, and this one is no different.

Yesterday, the Chancellor gave the illusion of helping those most hard pressed by the current cost-of-living crisis but in fact he gave with one hand and behind the scenes took with the other. At the start of his speech, he announced that benefits will increase by the September CPI rate, and that the triple lock for pensions will be maintained. At end of his speech, he announced a 2% cut in employee national insurance contributions and an increase in the national minimum wage to £11.44 an hour. For most women, he made these “apparent” increases in their income disappear as he maintained the freeze on the thresholds for tax and national insurance bands. According to the OBR, such freeze will see 4 million more people pay basic income tax and 3 million more move to the highest rate[1]. In addition, despite continuing higher rates of inflation, the Chancellor failed to maintain the £900 cost-of-living payment that many low-income households have been receiving.

The WBG estimate that lone parent mothers will benefit by £76 a year from the NIC changes compared to £248 for lone parent fathers and £417 for a dual parent household.[2] Given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and higher inflation rates, this will be a real terms cut for many. Those on the lowest incomes will continue to struggle to manage basic household costs such as food and energy. 

During his speech, the chancellor quoted Nigel Lawson and said that borrowing is just deferred tax on future generations. We believe that yesterday's "tax giveaway" and failure to invest in public services or tackling climate change, is likely to mean women and girls will feel the economic pain in the near future as a result of needing to shore up already crumbling social infrastructure such as social care and childcare.

This prioritisation of tax cuts, which will benefit the wealthiest more over investment in public services, will impact on the Chancellor’s stated intention to grow the economy. This is because without addressing care and the level of unpaid care women do, economic growth will be hampered. 

The Chancellor’s statement was based on the premise that the UK is a high taxed nation. But while tax levels are at historically high levels, the UK is not a high tax country by other nations’ standards.[3] The illusion that we can provide good quality public services with low taxation needs to be shattered. Lowering taxation is not the only way to grow the economy and improve individuals’ standards of living. Public services, such as the NHS, high quality education, adult social care and childcare, can improve people's living standards, particularly women's, contributing to greater gender equality and much needed economic activity. 

The knock-on impact of these tax giveaways and the failure to invest in public services will have consequences for the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations. Difficult choices on spending will need to be made as it is likely inflationary pressures such as increased staffing and energy costs will wipe out any budget consequentials from the decisions announced yesterday. We hope that as these decisions are being taken, the Scottish Government uses an intersectional gendered lens to make sure that those most disadvantaged, particularly women, are protected at these already difficult times.




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