Responding to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement announced on 22 November 2023, Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University said:
“The Autumn Statement represented the Chancellor’s last chance to improve working lives across the UK and help grow the economy before the next General Election.
“The headline 2p National Insurance cut will be welcomed by workers struggling with rising prices, but the Chancellor is giving with one hand and taking away with another by continuing to freeze tax thresholds.
Raising benefits and wages
“It was positive that the Chancellor chose to prioritise boosting the incomes of 1.6 million workers on the minimum wage via a 9.8% increase to the minimum wage to £11.44 per hour and confirmation that benefits will be uprated by 6.7% – in line with September’s inflation rate.
“But let’s be clear – the cost of living crisis continues to hit the most vulnerable in society – especially the 6.2 million people in insecure work. Food inflation remains above 10%, and energy prices are likely to rise. And the UK still has one of the lowest levels of unemployment benefits in the OECD, at just 17% of the recipient's previous income levels.
Tax incentives for businesses – no strings attached
“While the Chancellor introduced a series of tax allowances to incentivise business investment, these allowances will not come with any requirement for businesses to improve the quality of jobs they offer via increased pay or strengthened terms and conditions for their workers.
Employment support – strings attached
“This stands in stark contrast to the additional employment support measures on offer. It is welcome to see more funding for dedicated employment and health support for those currently out of work. But, if individuals cannot find work after two years, their welfare case would be closed, their benefits withdrawn entirely and their access to wider services such as free prescriptions and legal aid ended.
“Even the Department for Work and Pensions’ own evidence from 2020 suggests sanctions are not effective and slow people’s progress back into work. The reality is these measures will likely only serve to heighten anxiety amongst already very vulnerable people.”Back to News