The cost of everything, the value of nothing

Glenys ThorntonGlenys Thornton on the cumulative impact on women and children of the Coalition’s economic policies

The true extent of the government’s blind spot on women was revealed by last week’s Autumn Statement. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne all have a real problem with women. Despite repeated warnings about who is being hardest hit by the austerity agenda, women (and often their children too) are paying the price for the Coalition’s economic failure.

New analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown that 81% of the key additional direct tax tax credit and benefit changes that have been announced will come from women – that’s a shocking £867m of the £1.065bn raised. As a result, working parents will see child tax credits and child benefit cut even further in real terms – and this comes on top of the previously announced real cuts in Working Tax Credits and childcare.

Ministers seem to think that it’s ok to turn the clock back on women’s independence, as their cuts are making it harder for mothers to work. The Spending Review includes a big cut in childcare support for working mothers; and in April 2011, Ministers reduced by 80% to 70% the amount that could be claimed through that element of the childcare Working Tax Credit. According to a recent report by Save the Children and the Daycare Trust, this means an average loss of over £500 per year for the half million families who receive such support, and up to £1,500 a year for those receiving the maximum help. And now, maternity pay is also being raided – a move that will take £180 out of the pockets of new mums by 2015/16, making it harder for them to afford to take their full maternity leave.

Overall, the changes this government has announced since the last election means women are paying three times as much as men to bring the deficit down, even though women still earn and own less than men. 

At the same time, increases in public sector pension contributions and cuts to attendance allowance and social care also hit women harder. House of Commons Library research shows that out of the total £16bn George Osborne is raising in direct tax, credit, benefit, pay and pension changes, £12bn will be paid by women. Yet, as they take with that hand, the Tories are also busy giving a £3bn tax cut to 8,000 millionaires – an average of £107,000 each. So much for being all in it together!

Labour’s job is to keep reminding people that government Ministers do not understand how ordinary people live their lives, and to highlight the damage being done to women and children. Lower Incomes, cuts in financial support, fewer jobs and job opportunities, less and more expensive childcare, cuts to social care for elderly and disabled that also hit those with caring responsibilities. This is the cumulative impact of Coalition budgets, Autumn statements and the Spending Review – an impact for which they must pay a price.

Baroness Glenys Thornton is Labour’s Shadow Equalities Minister in the Lords

Published 11th December 2012

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