Not a red briefcase in sight today as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond unveiled Britain’s inaugural ‘spring statement’—more of a non-budget placeholder designed to tide the government over until autumn’s real deal.
Huge swathes of Britain’s services are stretched to breaking point. Our schools are strained, hospitals underfunded, and inflation is choking living standards.
While Hammond’s spring statement provided an optimistic view of our economy ahead of the autumn statement—growth will be 1.4 percent this year, 0.1 percent higher than forecast—there’s still much work to be done.
Poverty is rife. Although there’s been movement on housing, with Hammond earmarking more housing cash, we would like to see more and faster action.
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We want to an end to rip-off lenders, punishing the poorest. We’d like to see the funds from the dormant bank accounts retrieval be used to help social investment for good and help expand ethical lending and equitable credit facilities for the poorest in society.
We also need more clarity on what the government plans to do in battling in-work poverty. Working is the best way out of the poverty trap and it needs to pay.
Last November, The Big Issue and our social investment arm Big Issue Invest detailed our Big Issues that we called on the Chancellor to tackle in his autumn budget. We wanted to see poverty prevention at the heart of government policy, investment in good quality social housing, lenders encouraged to use data from rental sector to democratise credit and tax incentives for social investment and a fairer transition to universal credit.
We need social investment to ensure care in the community means just that
Too little of this has been tackled. And means to prevent people falling into poverty, costing them and society much more in the long run, is still to be illustrated.
Today, John Bird, The Big Issue co-founder, said the government is yet to really demonstrate how it is working to dismantle the root cause of poverty by prevention.
“We need social investment to ensure care in the community means just that, and the load on the NHS needs to be lightened so that it can treat and care for those who often have the least,” he said. “It’s also vital to up-skill those who have the least, so why are we closing the National Careers Service in prisons?”
“The Government should look into introducing local Prevention Transformation Funds,” said Bird. “This would help to enable new investment in preventative services until savings can be realised and reinvested locally into the system as part of wider early intervention and prevention strategies.”
There is much to do. We await to see how the exchequer will work to prevent the growth of poverty.
Image: Daniel Gregory