Daniel Monaghan Policy Officer 15th March 2023 Blog Co-operative development Economy Energy and Environment Share Tweet Photo by Rui Chamberlain on Unsplash Today the Chancellor announced his new Budget, which aims to reverse 13 years of decline under the Conservative Government. With families struggling to make ends meet across the country, as a result of stagnant wages, rising energy bills and biting inflation, purposeful action was required by the Chancellor to ensure further people do not slip into poverty. Unfortunately it is a missed opportunity to adequately fund our public services, provide support for families and boost prosperity in our communities. This Budget does not deliver the levelling up promised by the Government in 2019 – failing to deliver rebalancing in the economy, green growth, better services and revived high streets. The Budget failed to show the need ambition to levelling up and restore growth to local economies through co-operative growth and development. Co-operatives are known to be more productive and more resilient than other forms of business ownership – with co-operatives twice as likely to survive the first five years of trading. With 81% of co-operatives in everyday economy sectors and 98% of co-operative jobs in the everyday economy – they are pivotal to restoring economic and productivity growth to regions across the country. Diversifying business ownership and boosting the conversion to employee ownership, which has been growing despite the economic difficulties, was absent from the Government’s agenda. Despite the clear benefits of co-operative and employee ownership, the Government has offered nothing to support this development – a clear missed opportunity to deliver growth at a time of declining living standards. The Co-operative Party have been long-term advocates for a more affordable high quality childcare system – which puts the interests of children, parents and workers at its heart. We are glad the Government has finally recognised the importance of reforming the childcare sector and welcome the commitment to uplifting the hourly funding rate paid to providers and expanding 30 hours of free childcare to one and two year olds. Despite this commitment, the devil is in the detail. The new arrangements are not due to come into place until September 2025 – far too long to wait for those struggling to afford childcare presently. The new 30 hours free childcare is only available to working families, depriving children of unemployed and low-income families from valuable hours of childcare which can help a child’s development. We believe changes to the parent to child ratio could dilute the quality of childcare available to children – as they will have less direct one on one time. While this is an important step in the right direction, more is required to deliver a childcare system which values workers, reduces costs and delivers for children. Providing new support for co-operative provision in early years would have been an effective way of enabling this. To support the rejuvenation of our high streets and bricks and mortar businesses, it is essential we reform and replace the business rates system. High street businesses continue to be negatively impacted by the business rates system, with perverse incentives which further tax businesses that provide essential services such as ATMs and post offices. While the case for reform is clear, the Government has only announced the decision to provide local retention of business rates – rather than wholesale reform and replacement. Unfortunately, this will mean bricks and mortar businesses continue to be disadvantaged against online competitors – harming our high streets and communities. The Government continues to stall on implementing a clear plan to decarbonise the economy and achieve net zero. By focusing on nuclear energy, the Chancellor has missed the opportunity to support the emergent community energy sector which could revolutionise the energy market and make millions of people community energy owners. Community energy allows people to come together to own the generation, usage and supply of their energy through renewable sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines. A new National Community Energy Fund with the ambition to deliver millions of new community energy owners and gigawatts of power would have been a statement of intent in delivering net zero. Boosting energy efficiency through retrofitting homes is another key element in reducing our energy usage and achieving net zero. Unfortunately, the Budget has provided no further funding for improving the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock – which is currently the lowest in western Europe. A commitment to delivering the pledges of the Great Homes Upgrade – which seeks to retrofit 19 million homes by 2030 – would have helped to reduce energy bills, improve energy efficiency and work towards net zero. The Co-operative Party knows a more prosperous future is possible – one which delivers a fairer and greener economy. By growing the co-operative sector, harnessing community energy and delivering affordable childcare – we can start to build an economy which achieves real levelling up. It is a shame the Government have missed the opportunity to do this with their Budget today.