SNP says Rishi Sunak's Autumn Budget needs to 'reverse the trend' on poverty issues

Chancellor Rishi Sunak should use the Autumn Budget to “reverse the trend” that has seen the UK finish behind all of its north-west European neighbours on key issues such as inequality, pension poverty, unemployment benefits, recovery, and wages, the SNP has warned.

Ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement, the SNP has urged the Chancellor to deliver a major investment package to boost productivity, economic growth, and wages – ahead of a winter of uncertainty.

The £20 Universal Credit uplift applied during the Covid pandemic was cut earlier this month, while the furlough scheme to support staff of businesses affected by lockdowns across the UK also came to an end.

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The call comes following House of Commons Library research that found the UK had the worst levels of inequality, the least generous pensions, the poorest unemployment benefits, the weakest economic recovery, and the highest percentage of low-paid earners in all of north-west Europe.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

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The research found the UK offers only 28 per cent of the average working wage to pensioners – the lowest in north-west Europe – and ranks lowest in 95 per cent of unemployment laws – the least generous in the region.

It also found that Britain’s GDP per capital is currently at 5.8 per cent, the lowest in north-west Europe, and one in five workers are in low paid jobs – more than anywhere else in north-west Europe.

SNP shadow spokesperson Alison Thewliss said: "Following a decade of disastrous Tory austerity measures, a destructive Brexit deal, and no economic plan for the future, Westminster has proven that it cannot be trusted with Scotland’s recovery.

"Under Westminster control, the UK has lagged behind its north-west European neighbours in numerous key areas – including inequality, pensions, unemployment benefits, and wages – whilst independent countries similar to or smaller than Scotland continue to flourish.”

She added: “It is vital that the Chancellor listens to the calls from across the House and delivers an investment package that will boost economic growth, wages, and productivity, and finally reverse the trend which sees the UK lag behind all of its north-west European neighbours.

"Failure to do so will leave millions of families across the UK facing a winter of misery.”

As well as issues surrounding consumer economic issues, the Autumn Statement, which is due to be unveiled on Wednesday, is likely to tackle questions such as reducing VAT for hospitality and tourism.

In July last year, the Chancellor cut VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors from 20 per cent to 5 per cent in a bid to boost the UK's economic recovery after the first coronavirus lockdown, which some MPs have called on Mr Sunak to retain.

The travel industry has also called for the suspension of Air Passenger Duty, while motorists have requested that fuel duty is lowered or frozen, amid rising fuel prices.

Mr Sunak has said that his focus will be placed on “keeping the public finances on a sustainable path” in the statement.

But he is widely expected to end a one-year freeze on public-sector pay, introduced to control the deficit at a time when the economy was shrinking thanks to the impact of the virus and lockdowns.

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