The Mummy Tax

Marlyn Glen

15 March 2013

In opposition, David Cameron made a bold promise .

When in power, he promised to lead a Tory Government that was not just “ a family-friendly government”, but the “ most family-friendly government ever”.

Promises of these historic proportions easily become hostages to fortune which is one reason why the latest Guardian/ICM  UK opinion poll this week gives Labour a resounding 19 per cent lead over the Tories amongst women voters.

It’s not difficult to understand why.

Women look beyond their individual self interest to the broader aspect of the entire family.

If David Cameron’s original mission when he became Tory leader in opposition was to “de-toxify the Tory brand”, his policies in Government have gone a long way to re-toxifying it on issues that are important to women such as the NHS, care of the elderly, pensions, education,  childcare, child benefit, child tax credits , work-life balance, and jobs in the public sector.

Women are at the forefront of the daily conflict between squeezed family budgets on one hand and rising prices, frozen wages and a dormant  economy on the other.

The most recent manifestation of the family-friendly Tories has been their cut in maternity pay – a “Mummy Tax” , a phrase coined by Yvette Cooper, who pointed out that low-income women are less likely to take their whole maternity leave because they cannot afford to stay off work.

The income of working mothers will be cut because George Osborne’s Plan A is definitely not working.

The Tory-led Government will reduce the increase on statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance to a 1 per cent annual increase, making new mothers set to lose £180 a year by 2015.

Those who rely solely on statutory pay, about 210,000, will feel the cut the most.

The think tank Resolution Foundation declared that families with children, particularly single mothers, are to be the biggest losers from Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement last year, from the imposition of a cut in benefits in real terms in the years up till 2015.

Wille Bain MP quotes the Resolution Foundation on the effects of the same Autumn Statement , forecasting that “ real wages in 2017 will be no higher than they were in 1999”

Over 80 per cent of the revenue from the extra direct tax, tax credit and benefit changes in the autumn statement will be taken from women, that is £867 million of over £1 billion of revenue raised.

As my former Holyrood colleague, Cathy Jamieson MP commented,

“ Women are being hit three times harder than men by a Cabinet with three times more men than women—perhaps no surprise there.”

That the Tories have little or no conception of what everyday life is like for most women in Britain is taken as a given.

Words such as “We’re all in this together” and “ the most- family-friendly government we’ve ever had in this country” may sound as if the Tories do understand what women’s priorities are , but the actions of the Tories towards women show the words to be nothing more than political irony.


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