Cooking the cuts
by Sonia Sodha
In one of the Chancellor’s sleight of hands in today’s statement, he claimed that the impact of the spending review is progressive: families from the poorest households will feel less of an impact than more affluent families, even when the impact of cuts in public services are taken into account.
This will come as a surprise to many: it’s well known that poorer families are heavier users of public services than their richer counterparts.
On closer scrutiny, this claim breaks down. Chart B3 in the budget produces exactly the graph shape the chancellor wants – it shows the richest quintile suffering ‘most’ from reduction in ‘benefits in kind’ - ie access to public services. But what it shows is the reduction in benefits of kind as a proportion of public service use at the moment, not as a proportion of household income. If it instead showed reduction in benefits of kind as a proportion of household income, it would produce a graph shaped exactly the other way round, confirming that it is the poorest who will suffer the most as a result of cuts in public services.
Overall the Treasury's own analysis (Chart B5) shows that the poorest are in fact the second hardest hit group when all of today's announcements are taken into account. And Table B2 shows that in terms of public service cuts, the second poorest quintile are hit by exactly the same amount as the richest quintile: £520 a year. That's proportionately a much bigger squeeze for this income group - most of whom are in low-paid jobs - than for the wealthiest fifth of the population.