The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that his Budget was for the strivers, the grafters and the carers. As I listened to his words I thought, “This isn’t a Budget for the striving, grafting and caring women I have known in my life.” This is not a Budget for the women who make up 77% of the NHS workforce—the cooks, cleaners, nurses, midwives and doctors who struggle every day to keep the NHS running. Nor is it a Budget for the 1 million hard-working women stuck on chronically low pay whom I represented at Unison, who worry that their jobs are now insecure as zero-hours contract work increases. It certainly is not a Budget for the hard-pressed women of Wolverhampton, who come to my office with their concerns and problems, desperate for help because of eight years of austerity.
Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer realise that 87% of the impact of Government tax and benefit changes since 2010 has fallen on the shoulders of women? It is women who are most affected by austerity and whose lives are made ever harder by the Tory cuts forced on councils? It is women, along with their children, who continue to bear the brunt of this Government’s austerity. There was no mention in the Budget of the scandal that 33% of 12 million British children now live in poverty. One million of these children are in working households, and 120,000 children are officially homeless and living in temporary accommodation.
The women of this country will not be impressed by the money that the Chancellor is giving schools for “little extras”—£10,000 for junior schools and £50,000 for secondary schools, which have had an 8% cut in real-term funding and now cannot cover many basic expenses. Some 18,000 schools now face funding cuts. There was nothing in the Budget for further education colleges, where women can access an education that could give them a second chance in life. This part of our education provision is now crumbling due to the Government’s lack of support.
Finally, let me turn to the WASPI women who protested at Monday’s Budget from the Gallery—a generation of women made worse off by the former Chancellor. These women thought that they could retire after a lifetime of work but were not given any notice that equality with men meant taking money away from women. One hundred years after women won the right to vote, this Government still expect them to do as they are told and accept this unequal treatment.