Address structural inequalities in Budget and spending review, Sunak told

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Labour MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Apsana Begum and Zarah Sultana have written to Rishi Sunak ahead of the Budget and spending review to call on the Chancellor to take action that will address structural inequalities in his statements today.

In a letter to the Chancellor this morning, the three left-wing MPs stressed that cuts to the welfare system and public services have “disproportionately impacted women, disabled people, and Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities (BAME) people”.

They highlighted challenges disadvantaging BAME people, including the the pay gap between them and their white counterparts, the impact of community spending reductions on BAME communities and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic.

The three backbench Labour MPs emphasised the importance of transparency in the policy-making process, arguing that “successive analysis and previous impact assessments have fallen far short of what is needed”.

They called on the government to reverse the cut to Universal Credit, which took effect earlier this month, and for the Chancellor to ensure that a comprehensive equality impact assessment of the Budget and spending review is published.

An uplift to Universal Credit was introduced early in the pandemic, raising the standard rate for a single, over-25 claimant from £317.82 to £409.89 a month. Theresa Coffey confirmed in July that it would not be extended beyond the autumn.

“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has fallen hardest on women, and particularly BAME, disabled, and working-class women. The government must reverse the austerity cuts trailed ahead of the autumn Budget, including the cut to Universal Credit, and ensure those with the least are not the ones suffering most as a result of their it,” Sultana said this morning.

Sunak will deliver the autumn Budget and spending review to MPs in the Commons this afternoon. The Chancellor is expected to say that the country is entering an “age of optimism” with a “new economy post Covid”.

“Today is a chance for the government to ensure that working class communities are not the only ones paying for their disastrous handling of the pandemic. If they are going to spend in a way that entrenches existing inequalities, the least they can do is be honest with us about that and publish a comprehensive equality impact assessment,” Ribeiro-Addy said.

The spending review and Budget follow a better-than-expected economic bounce back from Covid, with Sunak expected to announce that the Office for Budget Responsibility has revised its forecast for economic growth this year from 4% to 7%.

“This government is pushing working class people into poverty while billionaires have sat back and watched their wealth balloon during the pandemic. We have to rebalance the scales. Equalities should be hardwired into every decision we make in its aftermath,” Begum said.

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