Responding to the Draft Budget 2023-24
This blog shares our first look review of the draft Scottish Budget 2023-24 and connected Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement and what it means for women, particularly those on the lowest incomes.
We’ll return in the new year with more analysis.
How our revenue is generated has an important role to play in tackling inequality. The draft Budget sets out tax increases for those on higher and top rates of tax. This builds on previous tax changes which aim to implement progressive income tax revenue.
With men being a higher proportion of those paying both higher and top rate taxes this announcement is a further step to better redistribution. Evidence from the Office of the Chief Economist demonstrates that changes made in Scottish income tax in 2021-22 compared to a scenario of no tax changes since 2016-17 has meant that in 2021-22 85% of women will pay less tax, compared to 72% of male taxpayers.
All tax rates have been frozen and this will have an impact for those on lower incomes. Ideally, we’d have liked to see a shift up for those on Starter and Basic tax rates, a higher proportion of whom are women.
There was no commitment within the budget to review Council Tax processes but with work underway on a Fiscal Framework between Scottish and Local Government the hope has to be that this could include a process for the long overdue reform of local taxation.
Urgent investment is needed in Scotland’s social care services to meet current challenges faced across the sector as well as build a quality service for generations to come. This draft budget failed to deliver the urgent cash injection needed to improve services now.
Wages for those working in social care will rise to the Real Living Wage (RLW) of £10.90, this marks a step back from commitments made last year to create a minimum wage floor that was above the RLW. Last year this was £10.50 when the RLW was set at £9.90. To maintain the commitment to paying above the RLW we would have expected to see a minimum wage floor for social care once again announced, £11.50 would have been a minimum to keep pace with inflation.
The undervaluation of care has consequences for individuals and society, as well as the state. It impacts poverty rates (and the failure to reduce these), entrenches women’s inequality, leads to greater spending on emergency medical interventions that could be prevented and it holds people back from living flourishing lives. Over a quarter of the people in receipt of social care support live in the most deprived areas and unpaid carers in these areas are more likely to care for longer periods of time.
In January we’ll be publishing new research that outlines the detail behind the type of investment we need to see to deliver quality, accessible adult social care in Scotland.
The Budget provides an ongoing commitment to delivery of 1,140 hours childcare for all over 3’s and qualifying 2 year-olds. Within this investment there is a need to build flexibility into provision to better meet the needs of parents, particularly single parents.
There was no mention in the budget of childcare workers wages, another highly gendered sector. It appears that meeting the RLW for this workforce as standard remains some way off.
We were disappointed that the Scottish Child Payment did not rise in line with inflation. This brings a real-terms cut to the value of this important new benefit delivered by Social Security Scotland.
Importantly, all other benefits delivered in Scotland are set to rise in line with inflation. This was the minimum necessary for those reliant on these incomes, the majority of whom are women. However, the draft budget fails to go further to deliver for certain groups of women, particularly unpaid carers.
As necessary commitments are made on how Scotland will tackle the climate crisis in this Budget more needs to be done for Scotland to champion a feminist just transition. There is a risk that the unprecedented investment in decarbonising economic activities will widen labour market gender inequality if a gendered analysis is not built into the planning process.
Gender analysis needs to be built into all aspects of just transition spending to ensure it works to tackle inequality. For example, investment in active travel continues to grow at scale as part of the process to decarbonise transport. We welcome this news but as the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement highlights men are much more likely to use active travel infrastructure. Further analysis from the UK Women’s Budget Group highlights that it’s white, middle class men that are most likely to benefit. Within existing budgets equality analysis can work to build fairer access to active transport and it is vital, across all areas, that this analysis is brought into delivery decisions.
Following cuts to employability programmes through the Emergency Budget Review it was positive that these cuts were not to be long-term.
In order for these services to work for women, particularly groups such as single parents, delivery will depend on targeted use of the resources and linking to services such as childcare facilitates to ensure they are accessible.
Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement
The Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS) is an important statement of intent and commitment to equality analysis within the Budget process. What is vital is that the process of developing the EFSBS is used to inform budget decision making, rather than retrofitted to produce the document. Capacity and support must be provided at an early stage in the budget process to ensure that the EFSBS is resourced to provide, quality, transparent analysis of the equality impacts through the budget in an accessible format.
The overall statement is necessarily topline. However, clear efforts have been made within this to make overarching budget information more accessible within the introduction.
SWBG is most interested in the detail which can be found in Annex D. Within this Annex each portfolio outlines some key areas within the portfolio and breaks down impacts for each of the protected characteristics and in terms of socio-economic disadvantage. Developments this year include adding details on how changes to spending, compared to last year, affected the highlighted issues. This addition adds an attempt to draw out the equality analysis that should be a part of all budget decisions and it is clear that some portfolio areas have taken this opportunity to explain impact.
In other areas we are still concerned by the lack of next step analysis, from acknowledging unequal impact to how this impacted decisions. We would have been keen to see more links to Equality Impact Assessments that were part of the budget process and may have filled this gap.
Annex D is a big document and we’ll update this blog in the new year with some specific examples.
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