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Responding to the Spring Statement

Blog by Heather Williams, SWBG Training Lead

When the Chancellor Rishi Sunak made his Spring Statement on Wednesday (23/3/22) he provided little relief for the many people already struggling with rising prices and low incomes.

According to the Women’s Budget Group analysis of the spring statement this year’s Spring Statement took place against the background of a rapidly growing cost of living crisis which will have severe consequences to people’s incomes. With the cost of essentials like food and energy going up, and to public services and public sector pay, as departmental cash settlements were agreed back in the autumn when inflation forecasts were expected to be half of today’s rates.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is forecasting that inflation will reach a high of 8.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022 and will average 7.4% in the 2022/23 financial year - its highest rate for 40 years. This is nearly double the inflation forecast in October 2021.

SWBG carried out a women’s survey over February and March this year which highlights some of the ‘hard choices’ women are already making. For 32% of women who recently told us that they struggled to pay their energy costs and were already making the choice to switch off their heating this Spring Statement is unlikely to allay their fears about their ability to heat their homes or cope with the forthcoming energy price rise. For women with an income of under £10,000 this Statement leaves them with even less room to manoeuvre, our survey showed that 75% (of those who responded with an income of less than £10000) were struggling to manage energy costs and 58% had difficulty affording food.

Our survey of women across Scotland showed that a substantial number of those who took part were already struggling to afford rising costs. As such were switching off heating and missing meals or were having to make decisions to cut back on other spending to afford essentials such as food, energy, housing and public transport costs.

Women also told us about how they were cutting back on spending on winter clothes, leisure activities and home improvements to manage everyday costs as budgets are squeezed.

I have a disability which is made worse by cold temperatures. I am fearful about turning my heating on at the moment in case I get a frightening bill. It is preventing me from being able to manage larger payments for repairs in my house.’

‘Due to anxieties around energy costs, I've cut back on spending on winter clothing and shoes’

The Chancellor’s actions benefit the richest more than the poorest and will disproportionately benefit better off men, it leaves women yet again hardest hit.

Notes

The SWBG conducted an online survey between 9th February and 14th March 2022, 425 women from across Scotland completed the survey.

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