BCU welcomes Chancellor’s first budget supporting prevention of financial hardship.
Yesterday, Wednesday 11th March, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, unveiled his first budget which had a score of measures to help prevent financial hardship but there was room for improvement too.
James Berry, CEO, Bristol Credit Union said:
We are pleased that the financial implications of the Coronavirus have been taken into account with some necessary steps to prevent financial hardship for individuals, though with further to go in order to support low-paid employees with sick pay. In terms of the focus on credit unions and our members, a positive point of the budget is that legislation will be brought forward which will allow credit unions to offer a wider range of products and services to their members.
This is a step in the right direction and we look forward to hearing a timetable for this proposed change.
Changes that are most likely to affect our members positively include the increase in the National Insurance threshold and the end of the working-age benefits freeze, which means that our members will have more money in their pockets. However, there are still areas that could be improved for the benefit of our members. Universal Credit and Job Seekers Allowance have only risen marginally (+1.7%) which, in real terms, means only a few pounds increase to incomes, which have been hit by an average of £560 in cuts each year since 2016.
Another welcomed move is the £4.2 billion for local transport settlements, which is split between 8 mayoral authorities over the course of 5 years.
This could give the West of England an extra £100 million a year. However, this is unlikely to be transformative enough to achieve the reduced congestion and zero carbon outcomes we need.
The Digital Identity unit is a plan we are eager to see implemented effectively. This plan will make it easier to prove identity without needing traditional paper documents. This could help people who currently struggle to access services because of a lack of paperwork. However, if it isn’t implemented correctly this could lead to further exclusion.