General Election

Reeves prepares to ‘feminise’ Treasury thinking

Rachel Reeves
History maker: Rachel Reeves (pic: Terry Murden)

Rachel Reeves is on the verge of making history, as Britain’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer, and already questions are emerging over how much she may “feminise” the role.

Among her ambitions is closing the gender pay gap “once and for all” by making sure that men and women earn the same.

She wants to ensure that women’s issues are properly factored into business and economic policy-making and that there is a true re-balancing of boardrooms and committees that extend beyond box-ticking.

Expect a change of priorities, with Labour promising to provide thousands of nursery places in primary schools.

Campaigners hope to see more focus on getting women into work, measures to improve the ability of women to raise finance for their businesses, and more help for the care sector which is heavily dependent on women.

There is likely to be more assistance for the low paid and those in flexible work, both of which are female focused.

Ms Reeves will have the support of other strong females likely to be in Labour’s first Cabinet. They include Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Secretary of State for Education; and Yvette Cooper Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department.

There may be further female support in the Lords amid talk that outgoing John Lewis chair Dame Sharon White will be among new appointees to offset the Tory majority.

Ms Reeves is expected to green light a housebuilding strategy along with planning reform led by Ms Rayner, while Wes Streeting, the incoming health secretary, will be given scope to end the long-running junior doctors’ pay dispute.

women female engineeer (Institute of Engineering and Technology)
Ms Reeves will help get more women into the workplace

The new Chancellor is also said to be under pressure, alongside Sir Keir Starmer, to reverse the two-child benefit cap, which has been a focus of criticism from welfare workers and the SNP. Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, is said to be sympathetic towards ending the ban.

Preparations for an autumn statement, possibly as early as September, will mark Ms Reeves first set-piece statement that is likely to shape her Chancellorship and set goals by which the new team will be judged. It is expected to include imposing VAT on private school fees.

She will also host an investment “summit” in London to confirm Labour’s pro-business credentials.

However, while Ms Reeves may be seen as a champion of female rights and representation she has already upset one lobby group after telling Daily Business earlier this month that there is no money to compensate the Waspi campaigners – women born in the 1950s who say they were not properly informed of changes to the state pension age.

It will be one of the casualties as Ms Reeves inherits the tight fiscal and spending plans from the outgoing Tories. She will force the nation to accept that its planned changes will need to be set against the need for billions of pounds in spending cuts.

Just where they will fall is yet to be made clear, but most will probably entail freezes on some budgets, while the government seeks out more efficient ways to deliver services.

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