What the unions made of this week’s Budget

What the unions made of this week’s Budget

- in GMB, NEU, PCS, UNISON, USDAW
Rishi Sunak MP

Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed his first Budget this week – amid a backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, issues concerning Statutory Sick Pay, an interest rate drop and low growth forecasts. Here’s what the major unions made of it…

Union leaders have now had their say on the chancellor’s Budget announcements, with much of the focus on his plans to tackle the coronavirus crisis. We’ve collated all of the responses from the major unions below.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

This was a Budget to calm the nation and showed the government’s been listening – to a point.

While a blank cheque to ease the NHS through the virus crisis will reassure health staff and under-pressure hospitals, social care and local councils barely got a mention.

Workers across the country will be relieved they’ll get sick pay or immediate access to universal credit should they fall ill or have to stay at home.

But many will still worry how they’ll make ends meet on current statutory sick pay rates.

It’s just a pity it’s taken a national crisis for the government to see the value of our public services and the need to invest in them properly.

Government, businesses and unions all need to work together to get the country through the next few difficult weeks and months.

GMB general secretary Tim Roache said:

There’s nowhere near enough in the the budget to help working people who have to self-isolate – the government can dress it up however they want.

Statutory sick pay is £18 per day, no one can live on that, and that’s what the government seem to expect the 20% of the population who may have to self-isolate to do. If it’s possible, let’s see Ministers do it.

Coronavirus has highlighted the abysmal state of sick pay in this country. This Budget was an opportunity for the Government to right a wrong, but typically they’ve completely ignored it.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said:

The Chancellor has today announced some limited measures on the retail crisis and Universal Credit, linked to the Coronavirus emergency. While we completely understand why Coronavirus would dominate the Budget, we don’t believe that should be at the expense of resolving some long-term and on-going issues that impact working people and communities across the UK.

With 57,000 job losses across the sector last year, the government needed to use today’s Budget to tackle the issues behind the retail sector crisis. According to figures from the BRC, the retail sector makes up 5% of the economy yet pays 10% of all business taxes and 25% of all business rates.

Today’s temporary business rates measures will be welcomed by small businesses, but they do nothing to provide a viable trading environment for the struggling large retailers who are closing stores, making staff redundant, going into administration and facing the prospect of going bust. Yet again the government has failed to understand that thriving high streets and shopping centres need a good mix of large and small retailers. When the larger multiple retailers fail, footfall declines and the smaller independent retailers struggle.

Usdaw’s ‘Save our Shops’ campaign provides a fully researched and comprehensive industrial strategy for retail. It is supported by retail employers and experts and we need the government to fully engage in tackling the retail crisis. A formal review of business rates has been announced for the autumn. Usdaw is calling on the Government to engage with all stakeholders in this review and use the opportunity to deliver fundamental change and level the playing field between online retailers and shops.

Usdaw also called on the Chancellor to finally scrap both the two-child limit and the five-week wait period, both of which are long overdue. These measures were jointly called for by academics, MPs, unions, and charities in a letter to the Government organised by the Making Ends Meet campaign.

The Universal Credit system has been plagued with issues and continues to be a failing project. Over the past three years, well over half a million children have been affected by the two-child limit, driving hundreds of thousands of families into poverty. The five-week wait period is not only unnecessary but is sending people into debt from which they struggle to recover.

The temporary removal of the Universal Credit income floor provides some assistance for the lowest paid who are self-isolating or recovering having contracted Covid-19. However, working families are desperate for large-scale reforms to Universal Credit, the system is fundamentally flawed and the roll-out has yet again been delayed.

Today’s Budget was a missed opportunity that focussed on the short-term fixes on the key issues of the retail crisis and the increasing number of children in working families living in poverty.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

This Budget is a slap in the cafe to our members who are delivering Brexit, working in jobcentres, helping to secure our borders and those collecting taxes.

Rishi Sunak insists that the public finances are strong and that human capital is important for the economy. Yet he will not give the government’s own staff a pay and pensions increase.

NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said:

While the government obviously needs to address the short term challenge of the coronavirus crisis, it must begin to plan for the long term as well. This budget does not support a long term plan for the millions of young people being educated within a chronically underfunded system.

The government knows that lack of funding is putting schools and colleges under great pressure. Class sizes are rising, subjects are being dropped, SEND support is disappearing and inadequate pay is making the staffing crisis worse. All of this is happening just to balance the books.

School buildings are badly deteriorating after a decade with almost no money spent on their fabric. 3,731 schools need immediate repair and a further 9,872 school need work within two years at the latest. Spending on school buildings has fallen dramatically since 2010, it is now 42% lower than under the last government. We greatly regret the government’s neglect.

The £7.1 billion already promised for schools over the next 3 years should have been increased. It is welcome but it falls well short of the £12.6 billion needed to replace the cuts since 2015, let alone provide a world-class education for every child. 83% of schools will be worse off this April in real terms than in 2015. Maintained nurseries continue to survive hand to mouth, with many under threat of closure, and 16-19 education continues to be suffer as well. The additional capital funding for FE colleges is welcome but, with almost 4000 schools in need of immediate repair, we greatly regret the government’s neglect of schools capital funding.

Missing from the Chancellor’s ‘plan for prosperity’ is any recognition that 4.1 million children in our country are currently trapped in poverty. With the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting that a further 1.1 million children will be living in poverty by 2022 it is extremely disappointing that there has been no indication today of a government strategy to end child poverty.

The government has recognised the need for short term action to support workers and businesses during the coronavirus crisis. If the Chancellor is to achieve his ambition for a high skilled workforce he must also recognise the need for long term investment in the education system and commit to addressing the underfunding that our education system has faced for far too long.

 

 

 

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