Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

PROTECTING OUR PENSIONS? FAR FROM IT!

In C. Mickleson on March 31, 2014 at 12:22 pm

The Government has announced that pensions will not be threatened, and old folk can rest easy. This assurance, though, is far from the truth, argues CLAUDE MICKLESON.

Once again George Osborne is trying to divide the nation. He is trying to set those still at work against those who’ve done their stint and whose meagre pensions have been worked and paid for.

Despite Government lies, pensioners aren’t being left untouched by the cuts. Far from it.

Let’s start with the Basic State Pension – the lowest of all amongst the advanced countries of Europe. We should bear in mind that any amount we get above this basic is merely enforced savings (originally called SERPS it’s now known as the “State Second Pension”). It was originally introduced by Labour in the 1970s, and is only a return on one’s own savings.

GOING UP?

The pension, we are told is to be increased in April by what they’ve chosen to call the “triple lock” – an increase allied to the CPI*, the average wage increase or 2.5 per cent whichever is the greater.

Now, the National Pensioners Convention has been fighting since 1980 – when Thatcher moved the goal posts – to get back the previously negotiated arrangement that pensions should be increased annually according to the increase in average wages or prices – whichever was the greater.

Thatcher changed the rules, so that only prices would be taken into consideration. This resulted in the basic pension now being around £75 a week less than it would have been.. The present government has calculated that the poverty level is £178 per week. Incidentally, through the rise in the Retail Price Index it meant that pensions have been pinned to the standard of living experienced in 1980. Progress demands that the standard of living increases along with the increased wellbeing (reflected in the GDP) of the country as a whole should be taken into account. So, a big step back there for pensioners.

CONGRATULATIONS?

The Government has now introduced the “triple lock” which includes average earnings. So, congratulations to a Tory government? No, not exactly. We all know how wages have been forced down so low that many are receiving less in real terms than they were before this Government took over – so no increase there. Then there’s the change from RPI to CPI. The CPI is always lower, and thus over the ensuing years will add up to a similar amount to that lost through Thatcher’s meddling in 1980.

OK. Point taken. But what about bus passes, winter fuel allowances, Christmas bonus and 25p increase for the over-80s? Then there’s the free TV for over 75s. What about that lot?

Gordon Brown was opposed to any proper increase in the basic pension, but with pressure put upon him, he gave pensioners a sop. They got their bus pass – a “benefit” difficult to quantify as many have difficulty finding a bus, and some don’t use their passes anyway.

Winter Fuel Allowances are a massive saving to the Health Service if people can keep themselves warm and free from illness. “Heat or Eat” is no fun, and very bad for health. The present Government reduced this allowance as soon as it took office, despite the cruel increases in energy prices since.

The Christmas bonus (£10) was, when introduced, the equivalent of a whole week’s pension. But it was never increased and now it’s a joke. The least said the better, about the 25p a week extra for the over-80s. It’s a fact that as one gets older expenses are greater – but by considerably more than a mere 25p.

Now let’s look at the details.

The bus pass – of great value for some, but useless for others. Let’s say it’s worth £10 a week

Fuel allowance – For those between 60 and 80, £4.80 a week. Those over 80, £5.77p a week.

Free TV for those over 75 – £2.80 a week.

Christmas bonus – 19p a week.

So let’s tot all this up. Those between 60 and 75 get about £15 a week from all these benefits. The 75 to 80 year-olds get about £18 a week. And over-80s get just over £19 a week.

Not a lot compared to the shortfall of £75 a week! And these “extras” don’t increase in line with inflation.

*Footnote: the CPI is the “Consumer Price Index”, brought in to replace the Retail Price Index (RPI) as a measurement of price levels. It can be claimed to be another means of massaging the figures to the detriment of hard-up pensioners!

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