Budget 2017: The government preaches equality, so why do cuts fall on women?

As of the last Autumn Statement, 86 per cent of net gains to the Treasury through tax and benefit changes since 2010 came at the expense of women.

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On the 8 March 2017, MPs will sit in the House of Commons to hear Philip Hammond deliver his Budget. This year the Budget falls on International Women’s Day – when we celebrate progress on equality, while also looking hard at how to address existing challenges.

Labour are determined to ensure that we do not miss this opportunity to demand for women to be at the heart of economic debate, for women’s voices, perspectives and interests to be properly understood and heard.

As of the last Autumn Statement, 86 per cent of net gains to the Treasury through tax and benefit changes since 2010 came at the expense of women, according to Labour's analysis. That figure is up on the previous year’s Autumn Statement, in when the figure was 81 per cent.

That is why today Labour are calling for a Spring Budget that works for women. A budget that invests in jobs for women, the services that women depend on and advances women's equality and economic independence

The budget is be a key opportunity for the advancement of gender equality.

I’m very pleased to announce that Labour will build upon existing equalities legislation and consult over the next 12 months on bringing forward an Economic Equality Bill.

Put simply, this Bill would seek to ensure that on equality, the money follows the policy.

It will no longer be possible for governments to talk the talk on equality while implementing economic policies that make life harder for women and protected groups.

It’s about ensuring that we eliminate intrinsic, structural barriers that prevent people from reaching their full economic potential.

The 86 per cent impact figure sounds isn’t just a number in a textbook or policy paper.

These are real women. Real women whose lives are being made increasingly more difficult through government policy and successive budgets.

They are the women who have to struggle with more caring responsibilities due to the gaping gap in social care funding.

They are the women on increasingly insecure employment terms, unable to plan properly for their family’s future.

They’re the women born in the 1950s who, with little to no notice, are having to face a crisis in their retirement planning.

Women in my constituency, and constituencies up and down the country, who will have to wait another 60 years before the gender pay gap closes.

And they are the 54,000 women a year who are forced out of their jobs through maternity discrimination and who can’t afford this government’s extortionate fees to take their employer to tribunal.

This cannot continue. Labour will hold this government to account.

In the absence of the government conducting their own gender impact analysis, Labour will be working hard on the 8th March to scrutinise the impact of the budget on women.

It is shameful that we have to hold the government’s feet to the fire in this way, simply to ensure that their policies are not disproportionately impacting one particular group and reversing progress on economic equality.

Through working with charities, economists and women up and down the country over the next twelve months, Labour’s Economic Equality Bill will help deliver on genuine economic equality for women – not just the sound bites and one off cash giveaways we have come to expect from this government.

Ministers have a choice: do they stand by, evade their responsibilities and make life worse for millions of women in this country, or do they put their warm words into action, rectify their mistakes and create a new era of transparency and accountability on the impact of Government policy on women, disabled people, and black and ethnic minority people. 

Either way, I want to send a message to Mr Hammond: As you deliver your Budget on International Women’s Day both Labour, and women nationwide, will be expecting a budget that works for them.

Sarah Champion is Labour MP for Rotherham and shadow minister for women and equalities. 

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