POLITICS

'Tampon Tax' Set To Benefit 'Long List' Of Women's Charities In Budget

£15m to groups combatting domestic violence and other causes

15/03/2016 21:02 GMT | Updated 15/03/2016 22:44 GMT
Mark Lennihan/AP

Scores of charities helping combat domestic violence and other issues will be given a share of £15m from the ‘tampon tax’ in the Budget.

George Osborne decided last year that the proceeds of the 5% VAT charge levied on all sanitary products will go to ‘women’s charities’ - until he can get the European Union to scrap it altogether.

HuffPostUK has been told that a ‘long list’ of cash-strapped projects has been drafted by the Chancellor and will be informed of their windfall on Wednesday.

Among those to benefit from £5m of the money will be some national charities: the gynaecological cancer charity The Eve Appeal, domestic abuse charities Safe Lives and Women’s Aid, and breast cancer charity The Haven.

But the main emphasis will be on a larger number of smaller local groups spread across the entire UK.

Yui Mok/PA Wire
George Osborne, with his Budget box

Treasury officials have spent weeks trying to hammer out the policy, which has caused real headaches over just how much VAT has been accrued and over which projects would get the cash. “It’s been a real clusterf*ck to sort this,” one insider said.

The Chancellor was bemused by the reaction of some critics during his Autumn Statement, who claimed that women should not have to use their own taxes to fund rape crisis shelters and other projects under threat from the Tory Government’s own cutbacks.

Some Tory MPs admit it was an error for him to compare the tax on their bodies with the ‘Libor’ fines levied on wrongdoing bankers that are also donated to good causes.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Protestors outside Parliament on International Women's Day

Some charities are understood to have been reluctant to take the money.  Within days of the announcement last year, Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, one of the charities to benefit, welcomed the cash with key caveats.

After it emerged her charity would be receiving £2m from the Home Office for domestic abuse intervention, she was cautious.

“Whilst we welcome this money being used to help women, especially at a time where the government are campaigning for sanitary tax to be zero-rated, we need to be clear that domestic abuse is not just a women’s problem for taxation on women's products to solve – it is an issue for everyone in society and men and women must address it together.”

But other campaigners have been delighted that the Government has made a strong commitment to lobby Brussels to dump the tax completely, and to donate the proceeds to worthy charities in the meantime.

One campaigner, Jenny McComb, praised Mr Osborne to for listening to her #bloodyrefund petition to get the money spent on women rather than going into the Treasury’s coffers.

A separate change.org petition to scrap the tax entirely - “Stop taxing periods. Period” - has been signed by 315,000 people.

Labour MP Jess Philips objected to the original idea when it was first announced in the Autumn Statement in November, yelling "You're not paying it George, I am!"

Many other women, including TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, wanted to know why the money wasn’t just coming from general taxation.