Rachel Reeves

Member of Parliament for Leeds West

Budget: Mums need a proper break this Mother's Day

The Independent: Yvette Cooper & Rachel Reeves


This is the morning for mothers to take a break from holding the world together. But this year, for many mums, it isn't their family they need to give them a break; it's the Government.

Seven out of 10 mums say they are financially close to the edge, and one in five admit to skipping meals to feed the kids. Last year, 30,000 women gave up work because they couldn't afford it. With childcare costs rising and working tax credits being cut, women's unemployment has reached record levels.

And it's mums and dads who are taking the strain in David Cameron's Big Society, too. Mothers are working hard to keep the local nursery or the mother and toddler groups open after 20 per cent Sure Start cuts. They are trying to find their teenagers jobs as youth unemployment soars, rejigging their working day since the school breakfast club closed, and checking on elderly parents now the Meals on Wheels have gone. Now the Government is pushing them too far.

There are tough decisions to take on tax, spending and pay. But the Chancellor has chosen to take three times more from families with children than from the banks. As a result, figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirm that a family with children will be, on average, £530 worse off next year.

Already the Chancellor has cut childcare tax credit and frozen child benefit. But George Osborne is taking a shocking £3bn from mothers of school-age children next year as compared to 2010. And he is going back for more – with the tax on motherhood rising to £6bn in 2013 and £7bn in 2014.

Yet what is the Government's priority for this Budget? A tax cut for people earning in excess of £150,000 a year – of whom only 15 per cent are women.

There are four things the Government could do as a Mother's Day present in this year's Budget. First, they should boost jobs and growth because women's jobs are being most heavily hit. Women accounted for 80 per cent of the increase in unemployment revealed in this month's jobs statistics.

Second, they should reverse the rule change planned for working tax credit, which will leave thousands of part-time working mums worse off by £70 a week from April, and thousands better off if they quit work.

Third, they should reverse the £1.6bn pension tax relief boost for those on more than £150,000 and use that cash to reverse the cuts to child tax credit.

Fourth, they should rethink the child benefit changes. Taking more than £2,000 from a stay-at-home mum just because her husband on £42,000 gets a £1,000 pay rise is absurd; as is taking all child benefit away from a single-earner family on £43,000 while a two-earner family on £84,000 keeps all of theirs.

We've known for some time that David Cameron and George Osborne have a blind spot on women. But when they do so much damage to motherhood, children, men and our economy all suffer badly, too. The Government has the chance to change course and make Budget Day a real Mother's Day this year.

Yvette Cooper is Labour spokesperson on home affairs and equality. Rachel Reeves is a Treasury spokesperson for the party

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