Reaction to the 2017 Autumn Budget
Chancellor Philip Hammond presented the Autumn Budget on 22 November. Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor with the Joint Public Issues Team, gives his assessment
Economic outlook and plans
The Office for Budgetary Responsibility’s assessment of the UK economy is exceptionally bleak. Productivity, economic growth, earnings and living standards are all weak or stalled. The result is that the chancellor has less tax revenue to play with and his aim of a balanced budget and an end to austerity policies has disappeared for perhaps a decade.
In the face of this new bleaker outlook the chancellor is sticking closely to the spending plans set out in 2015. This means that departmental budgets will continue to fall and that around £12bn of cuts to benefits will be made between now and 2022. These cuts will fall mainly on low income families – especially families with children. The result is expected to be a rise in child poverty from 4 million today to 5 million by the end of the decade.
It is important to realise that child poverty is rising despite record levels of employment; despite more parents working longer hours because when in-work benefits are cut, employment is simply not enough to protect families from poverty.
The original design of Universal Credit included a delay of six-weeks from applying for benefit to receiving the first payment. We have been contacted by churches telling stories of families they are helping who are facing terrible difficulties making it through this period.
The chancellor has announced that this problem is to be solved by reducing the wait from six-weeks to five-weeks and offering a large loan. This is an improvement on the current situation, but it created a new set of problems.
It is hard to believe that putting families facing hardship into further debt, before offering financial support, is a sensible policy.
The budget included a welcome recognition that there is a housing crisis and that part of the solution is to build more houses. Money has been allocated although the details of the funding arrangements are yet to be clear.
A housing strategy has been promised and it will be really important that this strategy contains a commitment to genuinely affordable homes for rent, which are desperately needed in many parts of the country.
Paul Morrison is Policy Advisor, Joint Public Issues Team