Ryeview – October 2006

Pensioners, make your voice heard

John Clark writes…

First published: October 2006 – Gazette & Herald

The newsreader announced that pensioners would get a nice surprise in April 2007. This struck me as a strange way to keep a secret – announce it on the ten o’clock news. Maybe all pensioners are tucked up in bed by that time. Before writing this Ryeview, I decided to check the numbers. They were nowhere to be found in the National Press or even the Department of Work and Pensions. It really is to be kept quiet. Well, for those pensioners who haven’t heard, I will let you into the ‘secret’. The single pension will be increased by over £3 per week. How is this figure arrived at? It is the Retail Prices Index for the year up to September 2006. Inflation for the average earner was 3.6%. This gives the first swindle. Pensioners usually do not have the same balance between incomes and costs as the working population. Pensioners spend a higher proportion of their income on Council Tax, heating and other basics. The inflation rate indicated for a pensioner would be over 5%. Thus, to stand still, the pension for a single person would need to be increased by over £5. So there will be a further £2 shortfall in their pension from next April.

What has caused this abuse of pensioners? The MPs of course. They struggle by on their £1200 per week, unless of course they are in the government when they need (?!) considerably more. In the 1980s, the Tory government broke the link between the State Pension and the National Average Earnings. Labour politicians howled about the unfairness, the abuse and how it was morally wrong. They stated loud and clear that they would reverse it. There has been a Labour government for 10 years (or there will have been by next April when the new pension kicks in). No sign of reversing. Mr Blair even said he had no ‘reverse gear’.

Meanwhile, how much are British Pensioners being short changed? How much more should they receive each week? For those who are long retired, how much are they morally owed if the link had not been broken?

If the Tory government had not broken the link with earnings, the pension for a couple would now be over £200 per week. A couple is already being short changed by £4,000 per year. So they are to receive an extra £3 per week while the shortfall grows from £80 per week to £82 per week i.e. the gap widens. A couple who retired over 20 years ago have therefore been swindled out of £30,000+. No wonder the £3 per week will be a nice surprise.

All the large political parties are talking about tax cuts. Yes there is a case for reducing the tax on the lower earners – but not up the income scale. A society that cannot afford to look after its older generations cannot claim that the higher earners need more spending money.

Pensioners are increasing in numbers and they have the highest proportion voting at elections. It is time they used their political power. We once had a fair distribution of the national cake. We must return to that fair distribution. If the present and previous MPs in the main political parties don’t change and change soon they will wake up and a grey revolution will have happened.

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