Home Secretary, Theresa May MP. Photo: UK Home Office
#MayMonitor: A new campaign to track progress of Theresa May’s government
Theresa May became Prime Minister promising ‘a country that works for everyone’. She committed to fight the ‘burning injustice of inequality’, to support those who are ‘just managing’ but find life hard and to prioritise ‘ordinary working class families’ over the wealthy few.
As Parliament returns from the summer recess the Women’s Budget Group launches the #MayMonitor – an on-going project to track the actions of May’s Government and highlight whether they will help meet these promises.
The Women’s Budget Group will be monitoring Government progress on four of Theresa May’s promises using the following scorecard:
- A country that works for everyone
- Getting tough on corporate irresponsibility
- An economy that works for everyone
- The Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours
Delivering on these promises – all taken from May’s early speeches– would require a significant change in approach from that of the previous government. The Women’s Budget Group impact assessment of austerity policies since 2010 has shown that the living standards of the poorest 10% of the population will fall by 21% by 2020, more than five times as much as the cut in living standards to the richest 10%. Women are hit harder than men. The hardest hit households, headed by lone parents and single female pensioners will be around 20% worse off on average in 2020. It is difficult to see how the Government can tackle the inequalities highlighted in May’s early speeches if it continues with its austerity policies. The gap in life expectancy for the poorest (the first ‘burning injustice’ listed by May) is unlikely to close if the incomes of the poorest fall still further. Gaps in educational outcomes, another issue highlighted by May, are unlikely to be closed with schools facing a real terms fall in per pupil funding of 8% between 2014/15 and 2019/20.
Cuts to benefits and services have gone hand in hand with tax cuts, which WBG analysis shows have mainly benefited the better off, the majority of whom are men. If May’s promise to prioritise ordinary working class families over the wealthy is to be a reality then this would have to mean a reversal of policies which have taken money from the poorest in society to fund tax cuts for the better off. The total cost of all changes to income tax thresholds alone since the 2010 budget is estimated to be around £20.5bn per annum by 2020/21. At the same time there have been cuts to welfare benefits totalling £12bn in this parliament.
One of the first policies under the spotlight in our #MayMonitor assessment will be the Inequality Audit – announced last month. All Government departments are being required to collect and publish data on outcomes on key issues such as health, education and employment broken down by ethnicity, gender, income and location. The data will be published annually in order to track improvements and hold public services to account. This does mark a move away from Cameron’s the rejection of equality analysis as ‘red tape’ and ‘tick box stuff’. However it will require a significant transformation in the approach of the Treasury, which has repeatedly failed to publish an equality impact assessment of the Budget or Pre Budget report or examine the impact of Budget announcements on household incomes or living standards.
So, will the Government live up to Theresa May’s early promises? Keep your eyes on the #MayMonitor for regular updates.