CEO of The Women’s Organisation says mini budget is “off balance but offers opportunities”
On Friday September 23, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced a set of economic policies in direct response to the growing cost-of-living crisis facing people living in the UK. Although not an official budget statement, it has been widely referred to by the media as a “mini-budget”.
In it, Kwarteng unveiled the biggest tax cutting budget in half a century and gave some insight into The Government’s developing £45bn growth plan.
Here, Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Woman’s Organisation gives her reaction.
The Women’s Organisation is the largest developer and deliverer of training and support aimed at women in the UK.
Maggie says: “Ok, then. Let’s start with the positive, shall we?
“Investment Zones – we could take this as an encouraging indication that the Government is serious about its commitment to kick-start growth – but businesses don’t make decisions to locate or set up within a specific area based on tax alone – employment, skills, transport and housing are other contributing factors – so we need a more comprehensive package for this to work.
“The Government are calling the zones an “easy way to grow your business, increase your sales and reduce distribution costs” – and this is certainly needed. The zones also promise simplified planning rules, connectivity – both in terms of digital and transport, and access to local labour markets. Great news for growing businesses.
“The question is, are we doing enough to enable enterprise and stimulate start-up? I believe the answer is no.
“The changes announced for people receiving benefits strike me as out of touch and punitive, especially given most part time roles are filled by women with children. For many, if not most, childcare is completely out of their budget, how then can they be expected to work more hours?
“I’d have liked to have seen further measures to help mothers and families who stand to be the most affected by the cost-of-living crisis – VAT reductions on food and clothing, for example, would have been most welcome.
“Also, by reducing Universal Credit and imposing somewhat restrictive job search commitments, I fear we could be penalising people currently receiving benefits who have ambitions to start a business or get into a job.
“I can’t help but feel that in stark contrast to the assistances we’re offering to existing and growing businesses with initiatives like the Investment Zones, were making it harder for aspiring entrepreneurs, by in fact offering less support and less flexibility.
“Simply, this budget won’t address the needs of the thousands of people in the UK currently on UC . It fails to create a space that allows them to take control of their futures and forge a new economic path.
“(Heartening news, though, to hear that jobseekers over 50 will be given extra time and additional support to return to the jobs market though – so often we see women over 50 come through our doors who have lost their jobs and in almost every incident lost their confidence with it.)
“And let’s talk about tax cuts. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said this was “the biggest tax cutting budget in half a century” – whilst this may be the case, let’s be clear, those cuts only stand to benefit society’s highest earners.
“The Government is saying that everybody will benefit from the tax cuts introduced, but a saving of 5% for our countries highest earners far outweighs 1% for the lowest and that is the stark reality of the outcome and impact of this budget.
“And the same could be said for the reversal on increased NI contributions – this presents savings of £93 a year for someone earning £20,000 compared to £1,093 for people earning £100,000, according to analysts.
“The savings to individuals – particularly those on lower incomes or those receiving benefits – will be swiftly and savagely swallowed up by the increase in living costs.
“And again how can we supercharge growth when there is no Government pledge to diversity and equality, or investment in measures to deliver it?
“Despite the fact that many employers now embrace diversity and equality, The Government rarely mentions it. We have demonstrated repeatedly that by creating ladders of opportunity for all sections of our community, we can futureproof our economy.”