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Economic Inequality

Volume 702: debated on Tuesday 2 November 2021

Distributional analysis published at the Budget and spending review last week shows that in 2024-25, tax, welfare and spending decisions made since the spending round two years ago will have benefited the poorest house- holds most as a percentage of income. This Government believe that work is the best route out of poverty. That is why the Government are investing £6 billion in labour market support over the next three years.

Analysis of the Chancellor’s Budget and tax and spending plans for the next six years shows that they will cost women an additional £48 billion over that period. That is a staggering amount of money to be taken from women, and it is in contrast to the planned tax cuts for banks. Is that why the Government have failed to produce an equality impact assessment for this Budget, as they are required to—because the Chancellor knows that his tax choices are totally unfair?

The hon. Lady must have missed a number of measures announced by the Chancellor in the Budget last week in which significant investment was made to support families through the household recovery fund and support for women in particular to get back into the labour market, alongside a whole range of other interventions.

One issue concerning me at the moment is the lack of access to cash in the north of my constituency, which suffers from significant degrees of inequality. I was pleased to be at the opening of Kingshurst post office, which will restore some cash services, but the issue remains a problem as retail banks reduce their estate. Does my hon. Friend agree that shared banking hubs are a good way forward? Will he highlight to the House what work is being done to increase access to cash?

Banking hubs will absolutely be a part of the solution, alongside a whole range of other interventions. The Government have committed to legislate on this matter, but in the meantime, I am very hopeful that industry will come forward with meaningful proposals for a range of options to deal with the declining use of cash and ensure access is available everywhere.

The colossal economic inequality facing rural communities is something that I hope the Government take seriously. Is the Minister aware of the collapse of local housing in communities such as mine—and indeed in the Chancellor’s next-door constituency—into the second-home and holiday-let markets? Following the Welsh Assembly Government’s example, will the Minister look at doubling council tax on second-home properties, so that communities such as mine do not lose their local populations and become riddled with ghost towns?

The Government are looking at tightening up the rules around second homes and council tax. We would be very happy to engage with the hon. Gentleman on the matter.