Citizens Advice responds to the Budget
Responding to today’s Budget, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice, said:
"People on the lowest income and those without savings benefit least from this Budget.
"The country’s improving financial situation is welcome but it is important to remember it comes against a backdrop of years of rising bills and stagnant wages.
"Positive moves on the personal allowance and fuel duty provide some small gains for stretched households, but there was nothing to address challenges around childcare, energy bills and private rents."
On personal allowance:
"Increasing the personal allowance will put extra pounds in the pockets of millions of people, but it is little help to those who are really struggling.
"A better way to help those on the lowest incomes would have been to raise the amount people earn before paying National Insurance – this really would take low earners out of tax and ensure it pays to work."
"The housing challenge extends beyond those who struggle to get on the property ladder. This Budget was a missed opportunity to help the nine million people living in England’s private rented sector – many punished by poor standards and ripped off by exploitative fees and rents.
"The number of issues involving private rent arrears that Citizens Advice dealt with increased by 13 per cent in the last year.
"We want to see the market urgently brought under control – which includes giving tenants better rights and access to refunds. A recent decision to outlaw retaliatory evictions is welcome news, but there is much more to do."
"The Budget rightly draws attention to the challenges faced by the self-employed and Citizens Advice hopes this is just the start of more support to come. Self-employed people who seek help from Citizens Advice have debts that are 41 per cent higher than other households.
"There also needs to be more done to bring much-needed stability to the jobs market to make sure people earn enough to make ends meet.
"Estimates show 1.4million workers have no guaranteed hours. This creates massive uncertainty for households and undermines the claims that everyone is benefitting from an economic recovery. The number of employment issues Citizens Advice helps with is up by 8 per cent."
On advice services:
"Advice services are absolutely crucial in helping people solve their problems. The services provided by Citizens Advice are worth £750 million a year to society.
"There is a vast unmet need for advice services and national and local government must not assume that these services will just happen. There is an opportunity to direct a proportion of the increased bank levy to fund frontline services. We’re also calling on government to develop a five year strategy to ensure advice is available in all communities."
"Our welfare system is a vital safety net to millions of people, but it needs to be more responsive to people’s needs.
"A third of all problems people come to Citizens Advice for relate to welfare so the impact of recent reforms should not be underestimated.
"The working age welfare budget has already been dramatically reduced – it would be reckless to hack further away at this without waiting to see the full impact of ongoing reforms.
"People wait on average six to eight weeks for an internal review of a decision on Employment Support Allowance, which can push claimants into debt and financial trouble. This kind of problem needs to be sorted out before more cuts are made."
"While giving pensioners greater choice is a good idea in principle, for most people a guaranteed income stream for life is very important.
"Pensions choices are complicated so there needs to be the necessary support and consumer protections in place early.
"The government needs to carefully consider both the role of pensions guidance to help people understand the options open to them and regulated independent financial advice to inform their decision."
Notes to editors:
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.