Now Osborne comes under fire for 'tax on women'

 

Women will bear the brunt of the squeeze on pay, tax and benefits, losing almost three times as much as men as a result of George Osborne's Autumn Statement, according to an analysis of the austerity measures.

The research will embarrass David Cameron and the Chancellor as they try to counter claims that the Government's tough economic medicine is hitting women disproportionately hard. The Treasury is going to claw back £2.37bn by freezing working tax credit, trimming rises in child tax credits and capping public sector pay.

Almost three-quarters of that sum – or £1.73bn – will come from women, compared with only £638m from men, the House of Commons Library has calculated.

The research found that 4.6 million women and 2.6 million men would be affected by Mr Osborne's 1 per cent cap on pay rises in the public sector for two years, while 89 per cent of those affected by the change to child tax credit will be women.

Support for the Coalition has fallen sharply among women, who see themselves as the main victims of cuts, surveys suggest. A leaked Downing Street memo acknowledged: "Women are significantly more negative about the Government than men." Mr Cameron has also endured difficult headlines over the shortage of women in the Government.

The impact of freezing working tax credit will be equally divided between the sexes.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said: "This is the biggest attack on women in a generation." But the Prime Minister strongly denied that women were being hit more heavily, insisting the Government was trying to help struggling families. He pointed to the council tax freeze and the doubling of free childcare for two-year-olds announced in the Autumn Statement, as well as the Government's work programme.

A Treasury aide said: "These figures are based on Labour-commissioned, partial analysis and give a completely distorted view of what the Government is doing to support women."

He said the analysis totally ignored the £650m the Government committed to expanding nursery provision.

But Yvette Cooper, Labour's equalities spokesman, said: "Time and again this Government is making women take the greatest strain, even though they still earn less and own less than men." She claimed the Government would raise £18.9bn a year from changes to tax, benefits, pay and pensions, of which £13.2bn would come from women and £5.7bn from men. "They clearly don't understand the pressures many women are facing at the moment," she added.

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