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Budget wishlist

We asked leading charities and campaign groups to tell us what they wanted from this year's Budget p

Oxfam

In these gloomy economic times the Chancellor’s Budget must prioritise those who cannot protect themselves from the recession.

To tackle poverty at home he should raise Job Seekers’ Allowance by at least £15 per week – enough to take it back to 1997 levels.

Helping poor people abroad means honouring existing commitments to increase aid and ensure millions of men, women and children have health services and social safety nets to fall back on. This will save thousands of lives.

But helping poor people survive the recession is not enough. The damage the current crisis is doing to the poor will de dwarfed by unchecked climate change. Alistair Darling cannot solve the problem alone. But he should ensure the UK’s recovery is sustainable by investing now in a greener future – an area where the UK lags far behind other rich countries. Publishing the effect of his Budget on the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions as well as its economy would demonstrate a willingness to catch-up.

Kirsty Hughes, Head of Policy and Advocacy

Age Concern and Help the Aged

Anti-recession measures in the Budget must address the impact the economic downturn is having on older people’s lives.

50 plus workers are losing jobs faster than other age groups and this must be tackled with targeted help including incentives for employers and training for Jobcentre Plus staff to improve the help they give to older clients.

A package of measures to help low income pensioners with modest savings will be welcomed by millions of older people whose income from savings has been reduced to almost zero. Government must also take action to implement ‘automatic payments’ to ensure older people missing out of benefits get the money they are entitled to.

An ambitious new energy efficiency drive to eradicate fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions is vital if the Government is to meet fuel poverty targets.

The crumbling social care system needs at least £1 billion to address the immediate crisis, improve care for older people and help create thousands of new jobs.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director

Action for Children

"At a time when the most vulnerable in society are fearful of what lies ahead it is vital that the Chancellor does all he can to make their futures as bright as possible.

"We are all looking to make savings in the current climate but Mr Darling must avoid the temptation to reduce spending on preventative services.

"These not only help to reduce anti-social behaviour and the risk of family breakdown, but also help to break the cycle of deprivation – something that will reduce the long-term costs to society as a whole.

"The Chancellor must also do more to improve the future prospects of vulnerable young people being hit hardest by the recession. Funds should be available to equip them with the work and life skills they need to build their self-confidence and seize on education, training and employment opportunities to reach their full potential.

"This may be a budget for 2009, but if Mr Darling gets the focus right it will pay off for generations to come."

Chief Executive Clare Tickell

Refugee Action

Alistair Darling should grant the right to work to asylum seekers. It makes economic sense to grant asylum seekers the right to work so that they can contribute taxes to the economy and lead a dignified life.

Asylum seekers are often professionals such as doctors and teachers whose skills we need in the UK.

In terms of the work of Refugee Action as a charity we, along with all other charities, have suffered badly because of the credit crunch. We need the government to come up with creative ways in which tax exemptions can be introduced so that we can use more of our income to give direct help to the vulnerable people we work with. For example, we would like transitional relief for gift aid donations to be extended beyond April 2011 so that public donations can continue to be worth an extra 28p at no extra cost to the donor.

Sandy Buchan, Chief Executive

Shelter

Preparing his Budget, Darling will be acutely conscious that housing represents both a key cause of the recession and one of its key victims. The massive rise in debt which has so undermined the UK economy was largely the result of an uncontrolled stampede to profit from vertiginous house price inflation. The bursting of the housing bubble has left millions of home owners struggling and the housebuilding industry facing bankruptcy.

So housing needs to be at the heart of the Budget. With the Prime Minister’s target for three million desperately needed new homes looking increasingly under threat, investment in an ambitious housebuilding programme is required. Not only will that provide a direct fiscal stimulus to the economy, staving off the loss of 400,000 construction jobs and offering hope to the 1.7 million people on the housing lists. A massive expansion in housing supply will also be the only way of avoiding a return to the era of boom and bust in the housing market - and hence the wider economy.

Adam Sampson, chief executive, Shelter

End Violence Against Women coalition

Recent political events have highlighted the Treasury’s reputation for laddishness and the department is widely considered to be unfriendly to women's equality. It regularly scores poorly in our audit of government work to tackle violence against women, Making the Grade – apparently ignoring the estimated annual cost of the problem of £40 billion (more than is spent on defence!).

This budget comes as the government is consulting on a cross-government strategy to end all forms of violence against women. We believe a strategy is vital to move away from costly and failed policies of the past such as one year funding cycles for rape crisis centres and one-off public awareness campaigns using up end of year under-spend.

Clearly these are tough economic times but it would be a mistake to pit the economy against women’s safety. We want to see sustainable funding of women's services and investment in the long-term work of changing attitudes and preventing violence. The budget will be a test for the Treasury to shake off its macho image and signal government commitment to eradicating violence against women

Holly Dustin, Manager

WaterAid

This year the Chancellor faces tough decisions on what to do with the public finances and there is a real risk that promises may go unmet. However, in a global recession, the government must redouble its efforts and make good on its promise to fight global poverty. Not least because it is the poor who will be both the first and the most affected.

For water and sanitation, broken aid promises equal more bad news. The UK government has steadily and rightly increased its contributions to health and education over the last decade - investing in two of the building blocks of development. However, it has not shown the same commitment to the most essential building block - safe water and sanitation. The latest figures show that the UK gave just 3% of its aid to water and sanitation compared to 19% and 34% going to education and health.

This year the government has to balance the books but it must also balance the aid books: more for health, more for education but also a fair deal for water and sanitation.

Oliver Cumming, Policy Officer for Sanitation & Environment

World Development Movement

The Chancellor should commit at least 2 per cent of our national GDP to investments in job-generating green energy, infrastructure, construction and transport projects. It means changing tax incentives to support green business practices and punish dirty activities. It means using public ownership of banks to increase the flow of finance into research and development of environmental technologies. It means setting up and supporting innovative financial instruments, such as green bonds and pension schemes to back decentralised renewable energy supplies.

This is what is meant by implementing a Green New Deal, a phrase adopted by the Prime Minister, but which he appears not to have grasped in terms of its actual implementation. This budget must reflect the need to simultaneously deal with the economic and environmental crises of our time, both for ourselves and for people in the developing world, who stand to lose the most if we fail to shift to a more just, equitable and low carbon economy.

Julian Oram – head of policy

Women's Budget Group

Budgets make depressing reading for most women, whose economic activity often takes place outside the paid economy and off the UK balance sheet, and who, despite being in the work force in greater numbers, are stuck, thanks to a dysfunctional labour market segregated by gender, in the lowest paid jobs. Women are worried that bailouts for businesses (funding huge bonuses and pensions to their top guys), will be paid for by cuts in childcare and SureStart.

The Chancellor needs to consider how his policy responses impact on women. This means hard questions: how can regulatory regimes change patterns of risk-taking for the benefit of the poorest, largely women? Do tax reductions disproportionately benefit men? Are women proportionately represented in the employment created?

Instead of shoring up what hasn't worked -- market failures that fuel a gender pay gap of 35% -- we should seize this opportunity to rebuild our economy based on better values of fairness and equity. We were told everyone would benefit if a few were allowed to cream off vast profits. That system hasn't worked. This is a chance to change things for the better.

Janet Veitch

Your chance to ask Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Yvette Cooper a question

On Wednesday afternoon this week the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, will present his annual Budget statement to the House of Commons.

The following morning, the New Statesman will co-host its annual Budget Briefing with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and YOU will have your chance to get your questions about the Budget and the thinking behind it answered.

For example: has the budget calmed worried families? Have small businesses been listened to? Is there enough support for public services? Does the budget stimulate the economy? Where does it leave the opposition parties?

Click here to email Yvette Cooper