Women are facing a “grossly disproportionate and devastating” impact from the Government’s emergency Budget, it has been argued at the High Court.
Women are bearing the brunt of the cuts triggered in jobs, benefits and services after a “complete failure” to take account of gender equality laws, a QC said.
The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, is asking Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, for permission to seek a High Court declaration that the June Budget is unlawful and must be reconsidered.
The society argues women are disproportionately affected because more women than men rely on the welfare benefits that are being cut, and the changes to the tax system favour far more men than women.
Karon Monaghan QC, representing the society, told the judge that, of the £8.1 billion in savings raised by the Budget, £5.7 billion was being born by women – “72% as against 28% for men.”
Ms Monaghan said: “Top-line analysis demonstrates a grossly disproportionate and devastating impact so far as women are concerned.” If the judge agrees the society has an arguable case, their judicial review application will go to a full hearing in the near future.
Ms Monaghan argued the Chancellor of the Exchequer had failed to comply with the Government’s duty under the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act “to eliminate unlawful discrimination” and promote equality of opportunity between men and women. It failed to carry out gender equality impact assessments and act in accordance with its own gender equality scheme, said the QC.
The hearing comes as Labour equalities spokeswoman Yvette Cooper released research by the House of Commons Library which she said showed that women will bear £11 billion of the £16 billion tax, benefit and pension cuts imposed in the Budget.
The emergency Budget hit women almost three times as hard as men and Chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review hits them twice as hard, with a combined total of 27 different policy changes affecting women more harshly than men, said Ms Cooper.
The Government is seeking to block the High Court application, arguing the Fawcett Society failed to act promptly, and its delay could cause “serious prejudice to good public administration”.