This Autumn Statement was an opportunity for the Government to improve people’s lives, by tackling the ongoing cost-of-living scandal and investing in crumbling schools and hospitals. It was a chance to close tax loopholes and make tax fairer. Instead, the Government chose to cut some taxes whilst failing to properly support those struggling with the cost of everyday life and address public services in crisis. 

Ahead of the Autumn Statement the former Archbishop of Canterbury[1] joined us in calling for measures to tackle the poverty crisis, including reforms to shift taxes from income to wealth. But we saw no shift of taxes towards the ultra-wealthy, and instead an eye-catching package of tax cuts – so public spending will face a huge real-terms fall, without preventing the real-terms increase in taxes that ordinary people are facing[2].  

For the 3.8 million people in the UK who experienced ‘horrifying levels of destitution’ last year[3], this budget was a far cry from the bold steps we so desperately need our Government to take. Whilst measures to increase benefits and the minimum wage are welcome, these fail to address the erosion in living standards[4] through inflation, stagnating wages, and a failure to invest in public services.  

JustMoney Movement Executive Director, Sarah Edwards said:

“This Autumn Statement was an opportunity for the Chancellor to shift the narrative around tax, to celebrate it as a blessing – a mechanism through which we can pay for the collective goods we need to live a full life. Whether in terms of hospital waiting lists, unsafe school buildings, or benefits that don’t even cover the basic cost of essentials, we needed the Government to step up and offer bold reforms for the common good. We want to see a fairer tax system, where we all – including the very wealthiest – pay a fair share to create a flourishing society. Unfortunately, the political will to bring this about was nowhere to be seen”

Our Thanks for Tax poll[5] has highlighted that people are thankful for the vital public services their taxes pay for. 70% of respondents said they were thankful that their taxes fund the NHS, followed by education (10%) and welfare (7.2%). The public understand that we need taxes – fairly shared – to pay for these collective goods. Instead of today’s headline-grabbing tax cuts, the JustMoney Movement is calling for meaningful reforms, to create a more just tax system where the wealthy pay their fair share, and a fresh debate about the role of tax in creating a society where everyone can flourish.


[1] Former Archbishop Rowan Williams said, “We in the UK are witnessing – and, sadly, tolerating – levels of inequality and insecurity not seen in this country for decades. It is often said that justice deferred is justice denied.  We urge the UK Government not to defer tackling this crisis and to use the means at its disposal – including reform of our tax system to tax wealth more fairly – to offer some hope and freedom of agency to those most at risk in our society.”

[2] Real terms tax increases are mostly imposed through ‘fiscal drag’ through the freezing of tax thresholds in recent years

[3] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/destitution-uk-2023

[4] The OBR has forecast that living standards will be 3.5% lower in 2024-25 than pre-pandemic: the largest reduction in living standards since records began.

[5] https://justmoney.org.uk/thanks-for-tax-poll-results/

Photo Credit: Richard Townshend, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Comments

  • Barbara Crompton
    22 Nov 2023

    I applaud Sarah Edward’s response to the chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
    Thank you.

  • David Gane
    23 Nov 2023

    Higher taxes
    1. Democratically elected governments respond to public pressure to stay in power using focus groups to gauge public opinion. [They are not beyond manipulating that opinion for their own ends]
    2. It is relatively easy to organise public pressure on specific issues such as the jubilee campaign where the link between the cost and what people will pay through taxation is weak.
    3. To get people to demand higher taxes per se is a tall order. The usual way is to be specific on the extra service demanded and [as you do] suggest others, the rich should pay. As they are relatively few in number, their votes are not critical.
    4. An alternative if there is high demand to fund a particular service [the NHS] is hypothecation or ring fencing. A separate tax should enable greater transparency of how the money is used. However, there are limits as to how many services can be funded this way and maintain flexibility of government and clarity for the individual.
    5. The real question behind all this is what we consider to be a fair society. It is easy to say the rich should pay more, but how much more is fair? It really boils down to the attitude of the individual and their incentive to work. Is it a higher take home pay than their peers so they can flaunt their wealth, or is it the sense of fulfilment achieved by contributing to society and using one’s talents to the best of one’s ability? If the former, taken to extremes a low tax society will fail if the rich do not have compassion for the poor and volunteer their excess funds for that purpose. and a high tax society will fail if the resultant lower income after tax destroys the incentive to work.
    6. One cannot lecture on such issues without causing outrage and in a godless society there are few options. Ethics might show the way, but it is religion that provides the will and the purpose. Here we can point to examples of compassion and justice and sacramental love. We can paint a vision of how it should be. The Parliament of the World’s Religions illustrates that there is a consensus amongst the main religions regarding fairness, respect, love and justice even though individual beliefs may differ.
    In a democracy we get the government we deserve, and it is our own house that we must first put in order. We pray to God that He provides a leader who can unite us and lead that way forward.

  • Olaf
    26 Nov 2023

    I agree with Sarah Edwards statement about how taxes should be viewed. This provides very good motivation for Christians to pay taxes as a vision of how things work at their best. Even when they are not at their best, Romans 13v6, still tells us to pay our taxes as the authorities are giving their time to governing, and that whoever they might be, they are described as God’s servants. Even though this is the case, I fear the problem is that our government is largely non Christian and are working on a different level of scraping by at the moment, trying to stay in office and just about managing to cut the budget deficit thanks to favourable trends in energy costs and borrowing interest rates. Yet whenever there is some cash to spare or leeway in the budget, I agree it is awful to see this cash being offered largely into the pockets of those who are wealthy already ( e.g all workers benefit, and many many of them are earning a lot, though not all ) . At the same time as this improvement is given to all workers, it is not at all benefitting the poorest non-earners and dependents amongst us. The alliance in this government is very clearly with the rich and not with the poor, and it seems there is little heart for the latter. It looks to me like a continuation of Margaret Thatcher’s policies where people are compelled to work as much as possible, regardless of their state, but this is in a different context than the 70s and 80s where many more issues are coming up where there are probably more mismatches between available jobs and unemployed population, not to mention more mental health issues and special needs cases, for which that model won’t do.

    the piece by David Gane makes a superb set of points, and I think the question in point 5 of his is absolutely key: that is right bang on target for what needs to be discussed, balanced and got right to create change in the right direction by us and any Government. Motivation in the individual who can work, to work is a critical factor to consider in the question of the Economy’s changes, taxation & funding. For this reason I think Education is crucial to boost funding for no matter what, as this is a necessary ingredient to motivation in peoples lives, more than just bread and butter, but giving them a fishing rod and teaching them how to fish with it.

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