Britain’s pensioners will feel battered and bruised by the Budget announcement, which has failed to address the serious concerns of Britain’s 11m older people. The proposal to merge the basic and second state pensions into a single £140 a week payment is a classic case of smoke and mirrors – given that someone could retire today and get a combined basic and second state pension of £150 a week. In reality there will be no extra money to raise Britain’s scandalously low state pension – just a different way of packaging the payment. Not only that but it will also create a two-tier pension system with existing pensioners still having to struggle with a complicated means-tested system that leaves one in four older people in poverty.
The announcement of an automatic review of the state pension age is clearly a forerunner to making people work up to 70 and beyond. The chancellor is effectively stealing retirement years from millions of ordinary workers whose life expectancy is far lower than the very richest in society. This will hurt the low paid, part time workers in the north much more than the bankers in the city. At a time when youth unemployment is rising, it is social and economic madness to make people work longer.
The decision to freeze the age related personal tax allowances effectively means around five million pensioner tax payers will no longer get additional reductions in their tax over the coming years – whilst those on the top rate of tax will see their bills reduced. Many older people will feel they are being asked to forego their reduction in tax to help out the super rich. This demonstrates exactly what the Budget is all about – making those at the bottom carry the burden whilst those at the top get richer.
The chancellor’s pledge to cut welfare payments by £10bn over the next few years will also worry millions of pensioners who may think their bus passes and winter fuel allowances might be under threat and the long-awaited social care white paper is being delayed, without any explanation, while around a million older people are struggling with a broken care system that leaves many with expensive care that is often of a poor quality.
We have to be clear that pensioners are not asking for special favours at the expense of young families. We will join with them to defend their jobs, pensions and public services because we recognise that the welfare state – and all that it entails – is the glue that binds the generations and our society together. This is what is now at stake and we must fight to save and re-build it.