The Women’s Equality Party today criticised the launch of the government’s Stronger Towns Fund, as an inadequate response to years of damaging and unnecessary austerity policy.
Commenting on the report, WE spokesperson Mandu Reid said:
“The government’s announcement of a £1.6 billion fund for deprived towns is a cynical attempt to play the benefactor in a desperate situation of their own making. But while investment is desperately needed in countless towns across the UK, this paltry amount is nowhere near sufficient to address the impact of a decade of punitive austerity policies and the chronic underfunding of crucial services.
“Austerity has hit women particularly hard, with £86 out of every £100 saved through changes to taxes and benefits coming directly from women’s pockets. Not only that, but it is mostly women who have been left holding their communities together in the face of brutal cuts. Nearly two thirds of unpaid care work is done by women, who have been forced to step into the growing gaps in our underfunded social infrastructure. This token investment does not make up for years of neglect.”
The Stronger Towns Fund was launched by the government today, with the aim of boosting jobs, training and economic activity in “places that have not shared in the proceeds of growth.” In a speech announcing the fund, Theresa May claimed that communities had voted to leave the EU as an expression of their desire for change and suggested that the new fund would provide an opportunity for positive change and greater control.
The fund has been widely criticised as a ‘bribe’ to garner support for the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal in Leave supporting areas, although Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has insisted that the funding is not conditional. Other commentators have pointed out that the £1.6bn does not even cover local authority funding cuts.
Reid continued: “Whether this funding is intended as a bribe or not, the fact remains that it is too little too late. That it is needed at all reveals the abject failure of the government’s economic and social policies to date. Notable among these failings is the designation of unpaid carers as ‘economically inactive’ and the refusal to pay professional carers - 82% of whom are women - a livable wage.
“The Women’s Budget Group has shown that investment in care creates twice the number of jobs as the same investment in construction. At the Women’s Equality Party, we recognise the economic and social contribution of care work. WE have therefore developed an investment plan to resuscitate this country’s social infrastructure and economy. The government’s £1.6bn fund is just a sticking plaster. Only a proper commitment to long term investment will truly restore our communities.”