By Sean Martin
Chancellor George Osborne’s latest budget merely continued the UK Government’s ‘woeful’ track record when it comes to women and affects them disproportionately, the SNP has said.
During Wednesday’s budget announcement the Chancellor admitted the need for more cuts, introduced a fixed cap on welfare spending of £119m from 2015-16 and raised personal tax allowance so no tax has to be paid until £10,500 has been earned.
Recent research into the effects of his previous budgets by the House of Commons Library showed that since 2010 the Chancellor’s tax and benefit strategy has raised a net £11.628bn from women compared with only £3.047bn from men. The study suggested that women were hit hardest by the cuts to tax credits and that men also benefited most from the decision to reduce the top rate of tax on income over £150,000 a year from 50p to 45p.
In addition, a study conducted by HMRC showed that the decision to introduce a £1,000 transferable tax allowance next year for four million married couples next year will see men given a £411m hand out while women will receive just £84m.
Scottish National Party spokesperson for Work and Pensions, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, said the budget discriminates against women as the benefits and tax changes have hit them the hardest and condemned the Westminster Government for its treatment of the welfare state.
“The UK Government have had a woeful record over the last four years when it comes to women, and George Osborne’s budget this week did nothing to change that,” said Dr Whiteford. “The welfare state is being dismantled by Westminster and women are being the hardest hit. Some 80% of month already slashed from the welfare bill has come from women’s pockets and this new cap will put women in the front line of cuts for years to come.”
Dr Whiteford added that only with a vote for independence would the situation improve, citing several policies the SNP have pledged in the White Paper, Scotland’s Future, such as transforming childcare, reversing the Conservative-Liberal Democratic welfare reforms and increasing the minimum wage by at least the cost of living each year.
Daisy Sands, Head of Policy & Campaigns at the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for women’s equality and rights, also criticised the Chancellor’s budget and insisted the labour market he has helped create since 2010 is male-centric and leaves over one million women struggling to find a job.
“The Chancellor may welcome rising employment levels, but examine the figures and its clear women are still struggling to find work,” said Ms Sands. “Since 2010, men’s unemployment levels have –overall – decreased by around 17%. For women the same period has seen a rise of almost 7%.”
She added: “This budget will do nothing to tackle the increasingly ‘female unfriendly’ labour market, failing more than a million women who can’t find work.”