With bills increasing, prices soaring and inflation rising, today’s Autumn Statement could have been an opportunity to address the inequalities we face in our economy. However, for communities, businesses and co-operatives across the country, the Chancellor’s promise of growth is still unclear and uncertain.

With soaring energy bills still dominating headlines, it was announced there will be new funding for energy efficiency initiatives including retrofitting. This is a much welcome call which could cut the price of energy for many struggling to pay their bills. However, the funding only starts from 2025. This means families struggling to pay their bills now will not feel the benefits of this policy for another two years. We also heard the Energy Price Guarantee will be going up to £3,000 from April – even more evidence that we should have an energy sector owned and controlled by us.

Another place where the Government must provide clarity to our sector is over its plan to introduce a Windfall Tax on energy generators. While the windfall tax will only apply to schemes larger than 100GWh per annum, which means that small community energy projects will not be effected, it is important that the principle difference is recognised between community-owned projects, where profits are reinvested in the community, and for-profit schemes. Recently Co-operative Parliamentarians pressed for immediate action to safeguard the contribution made by community and co-operatively-owned energy initiatives and include exemptions for our sector in the Energy Prices Bill. The Government must go further than simply verbally committing and ensure this is enshrined into law to provide certainty for energy co-ops in the UK.

And whilst the announcement of increasing benefits in line with inflation will be warmly welcomed by many families across the country, many of the schemes families rely on to make ends meet may not benefit. One area of particular concern for those in the Co-operative Party is the value of Healthy Start vouchers: our members have long called to raise their value in line with soaring inflation. The Government must clearly outline their intention for benefits and ensure Healthy Start vouchers are part of any plan to increase benefits.

In this statement, yet again the Government placed too much focus on short-term solutions and failed to look ahead to the future, including addressing one of the biggest challenges in our society: childcare. Whilst a lot of attention has been paid to getting more people into work and ‘issues holding back workforce participation’, more needs to be done to address the cost of childcare forcing many, mostly women, to stay at home to look after childcare.

And beyond the UK, the Budget lacks certainty on an international stage. Back in 2020, the Government announced it would be slashing the international development budget. Since then, the Co-operative Party members have applied pressure in all forms to hold the Government to its commitment on international development. Today’s announcement to not restore overseas aid spending to 0.7% of GDP for another five years is a huge blow to those countries who need it most.

On the surface, the Government’s Autumn statement aims to promote growth, address the cost-of-living crisis and control public spending. But instead, we got little in terms of commitments, little in terms of clarity, little in terms of confidence, and fundamentally little for our sector.  The Co-operative Party will continue to campaign for action which delivers a fairer, greener and more prosperous Britain for all.