Oxfam rues missed opportunity on UK poverty amid budget gains

By agency reporter
April 22, 2009

The global development and aid agency Oxfam, says that today's budget is a step forward on climate change, good news on the government's aid promises, but a missed opportunity as far as tackling UK poverty is concerned.

Oxfam welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of a UK carbon budget but warned the UK needs to do more to help poor people already suffering as a result of climate change.

Spokesperson Phil Bloomer, the NGO's Campaigns and Policy Director, said: “Carbon budgets are a world-first; a much-needed step towards meeting the UK’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring that economic recovery is sustainable. They could make a real contribution both to ensuring the UK’s long-term prosperity and limiting the negative impact of climate change on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people."

He continued: “Now we need money to help poor people across the world who are already losing their lives and livelihoods as a result of climate change. Oxfam estimates that by 2015, almost 400 million people a year may be affected by climate-related disasters and this number will continue to grow as already unavoidable climate change sets in.”

Oxfam welcomed the Government’s commitment to investing in energy saving measures and clean and renewable energy - including up to four demonstration projects for carbon capture storage (CCS). But the Government needs to give assurances that up to six new coal power stations awaiting approval will not be given the go-ahead without full CCS.

“Counting carbon while building a new generation of coal-fired power stations would be like measuring water levels while opening the floodgates.”

The agency also welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement that he would honour the Government’s commitment to increase overseas aid to £9.1bn in 2010-11.

Phil Bloomer said: “Oxfam is delighted the Chancellor has resisted those who called for aid to be cut forcing the world’s poorest people to pay the price of the economic recession and bankers’ bailouts. By proving as good as the Government’s word, Alistair Darling has ensured thousands more children will have the chance to go to school and millions of poor people will benefit from improved healthcare.

“But the £155 million efficiency savings announced today for the Department for International Development should not become aid cuts under another name.”

Bill Nighy, actor and Oxfam ambassador, said: “I am delighted the Government has decided to honour its commitment to help the world’s poorest who are suffering even more in the global recession."

Nighy added: “Thousands of mothers and babies will now survive thanks to new clinics and many more children will get the chance to go to school. Gordon Brown must now push hard for other governments follow this lead and increase aid budgets. The Gleneagles promise must become a reality.”

On UK poverty, Oxfam responded positively to announcements aimed at getting unemployed people back to work but warned that the Government was not doing enough to help poor people through the recession.

Kate Wareing, director of Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme, said: “We welcome the additional help to get people back to work, through extra funding for Job Centre Plus and a guarantee of work or training for long-term unemployed under 25s. But this Budget represents a missed opportunity to help poor people in the UK through the economic downturn."

She added: " Thousands more people are losing their jobs through no fault of their own, yet Jobseekers’ Allowance is worth just £64 per week. An increase of £15 per week would have cost just £1.5 billion and would have made a real difference to millions of people in the UK who are struggling to get by.”

The Government has earmarked £14.5 billion for ID cards, enough to raise benefits by £15-a-week for almost a decade, the agency points out.

An Oxfam report published earlier this month (April 2009) found that life will get much harder for the 12 million people, a fifth of the UK population, already, living in poverty. A poll commissioned by the NGO found that three-quarters of the public do not believe Job Seekers’ Allowance is enough to live on.

Follow budget responses from church, development and green sources on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/Budget_2009

Keywords:oxfam | budget 2009 | budget
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