THE BLOG

How This Government's Austerity Is Making Women Pay the Price

17/03/2016 20:04 | Updated 17 March 2016
  • Yvette Cooper Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, chair of Labour's Refugee Taskforce

all women everywhere

Behind all the sugary headlines the news is grim. After six years of the Tories, our economy is far weaker than they claimed, public services will be cut some more, inequality is getting worse. And once again women are being harder hit. George Osborne's plan is failing to meet his own targets, failing to deliver for Britain and he's making women pay the price.

The Chancellor had the gall to revive his claim, "we are all in this together". Rubbish. Time and again, as the IFS have shown, those on low pay are hardest hit while top earners get most back.

Women lose more than men according to analysis by the House of Commons Library. Women will be harder hit by the big cuts to Personal Independence Payments for the disabled, but benefit less from increased allowances for higher rate tax payers.

The £4.3billion cut for disabled people over the next five years is the biggest single revenue raiser in the Budget - and means someone too disabled to dress themselves alone could lose over £100 a week. Yet at the same time those earning over £100,000 a year will see their taxes cut. How can that be fair?

All this comes on top of the cuts to universal credit and child benefit announced since the election which affect women most. Working mums in particular will be squeezed.

At the same time there was no help for women in their fifties hit hardest by his previous pension changes. And for all the Chancellor's warm words about infrastructure, child care has now become a vital part of the infrastructure we need in the modern economy, yet the promised investment there is still delayed. And Paula Sherriff will keep pursuing the Government over their inaction on the tampon tax too.

Single mums and widows will see their living standards drop by 20% a year by 2020, according to the Women's Budget Group of economists.

It's the same pattern as in the last Parliament where thanks to George Osborne 80% of the burden was borne by women even though women still earn less and own less than men. These figures are a disgrace - another assault on women's equality from a Chancellor and a Prime Minister who just don't get women's lives.

But the failure at the heart of this Budget is not just about the Tories willingness to hit hardest at those with least. One of the reasons the Chancellor keeps failing his targets and coming back for more is because his economic plan has failed.

Wednesday's figures show the economy is much weaker than the Government thought - and much weaker than George Osborne promised it would be. The Chancellor promised us a march of the makers, a big increase in exports, and a plan to boost the productivity of our economy. After six years of George Osborne, this Budget shows falling manufacturing, falling business investment, falling exports.

Most important of all British productivity has been downgraded and the Chancellor can't blame the rest of the world because British productivity already lags behind the countries like the US, France, Germany, Spain, and Ireland.

The forecasts now show the economy growing more slowly and wages growing more slowly too. That in the end is why George Osborne is going to miss all his own targets - on debt and on the deficit. His public finance plans keep failing because the economy isn't growing enough on his watch.

We're getting trapped in a bleak Tory future where both women and men lose out, where inequality grows, and where we miss out on both the economic opportunities and the public services we need. No plan for the new jobs of the future, no serious skills plan that makes sure women as well as men get the new digital skills our economy needs, no serious plan for women's equality to be at its heart. George Osborne is failing, and he is making women pay the price.

Yvette Cooper is the Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about

CONVERSATIONS