OPINION

Hopes for the Chancellor’s spring statement

Posted On 22 Mar 2022 at 2:07 pm

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is due to make his spring statement tomorrow (Wednesday 23 March).

I am hoping that he will announce measures that will have an immediate impact on alleviating the cost-of-living crisis and long-term changes to housing policy to overcome the supply and affordability crisis.

There is a temptation to see the very many challenges facing the country are due to the crisis in Ukraine and the consequences of the covid-19 pandemic.

The reality is that the seeds for both the cost-of-living and housing crises go back many years.

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Housing policies of successive governments, not least the continuation and extension of the “right to buy”, has fuelled rental costs and reduced the availability of social housing with rents that people can afford.

The fuel crisis is the latest, albeit very significant, factor that has driven people into poverty.

We have heard this week, following the publication of a very disturbing report, Swimming with Sharks, by the Centre for Social Justice, of the very desperate lengths that people will go to in order to provide for their households, and how they become vulnerable to physical, emotional and sexual exploitation.

I hope that the Chancellor will do at least three things to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

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First, reinstate the £20 enhancement for those on universal credit.

Second, introduce an annual fuel grant (not a loan) of £350 each year for all those on benefits and those in low-wage employment.

Third, abandon the social care levy for anyone earning less than £25,000.

Regarding housing, I’m not calling for any additional funding but to abolish the “right to buy” and use the current spend on subsidising the “right to buy” to invest in the building of social housing with rents that people can truly afford.

Am I confident that Mr Sunak will do this? I won’t hold my breath but I look forward to being proved wrong.

Andy Winter is the chief executive of BHT Sussex. This post first appeared on Andy Winter’s blog.

The Chancellor’s spring statement is due to start at 12.30pm or shortly afterwards tomorrow (Wednesday 23 March).

 

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