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OPINION

A Realistic Basic Pension

By Ken Lacey
of Weston Super Mare Senior Citizens Forum

Whatever is suggested the politicians will say "now is not a good time", but, for pensioners "it never has been!". We have seen our pensions fall from 26% of average earnings to 16%.
The start of the decline was when the Conservatives abolished the link with earnings in 1980 and since then it has been attached to a bogus inflation level, now based on the Consumer Price Index (more about inflation later). We are' now the proud recipients of the lowest pension in the EU. Whilst we receive 16% of average earnings, many European countries receive 40% - 53%. The Prime Minister promised to renew .the link in 2012, if affordable, or 2015 when he has left Office for being unaffordable!
What we need now is a modicum of financial security and stability, not to be forced to go cap in hand for means-tested benefits which cost a fortune in administration and provide the Government with the excuse that benefits are the answer to all ills that befall an older person.

That is patently not true because the number in poverty is 2 and a half million and growing every-day We've had enough of that!

We want a fair pension which cannot be juggled by any political party who uses price indexes to falsely keep pensions and pay increases low. Don't say you can't afford it, we could all point to ways you· could cut your extravagant expenditure. For starters, you have indulged in political whims which have seen an explosion of jobs in the public sector, whilst the wealth creating private sector is sinking fast under a rise in bureaucratic legislation created by the vast numbers of public· sector employees who feel they must justify their jobs. These are the ones who make nothing, produce nothing and sell nothing!


SO, WHAT DO WE WANT YOU TO DO?

FIRST : We will want our pensions upgraded in the first year of a new Government, linked with earnings or a REAL Retail Price Index, whichever is the largest.
SECOND : We want the basic pension uplifted to recognise the drastic loss pensioners have suffered under the present system (ie the drop from 26% of average earnings to 16% - a 10% drop in real terms). The current average earnings figure is £27,000 per year for a semi-skilled worker.

So, to restore our 26% link to earnings we require an increase equal to 10% of £27,000 which is £2,700 per annum, or £52 per week, bringing our weekly basic pension up to £147 per week - which is still below the official poverty line of £165.

I understand that the National Pensioners Convention are coming out with a figure of £165 basic pension in line with the poverty level. I believe this may be a step too far, if you pick a figure too high, although justified, it could be tossed out by the political parties for being unachievable. What we are suggesting has logic and could be seen as achievable and justifiable, but I wouldn't argue against £ 165.

WHY ARE WE SO INCENSED BY OUR PATHETIC BASIC PENSION AND MAKING THIS STAND?

The following are a few examples of how we have been pushed into a corner since 1980 and why we are now prepared to FIGHT FOR FAIRNESS WITH OUR VOTES:-

  • Earnings link abolished
  • Brown promised to abolish means testing
  • 75p increase in pensions
  • 10p tax band abolished
  • Assume we earn 10% on our savings for benefit claims
  • Raiding private sector pensions of £5billion a year
  • Destroying pensioner income from hard earned savings
  • Unfair taxation of women who retire at 60
  • Having been taxed on earnings, now we are being taxed on savings
  • Low bank rate which discriminates against pensioners
  • False inflation rate for pensioners ­package of spending
  • 3% increase of nothing much is unhelpful when compared to a 3% increase in an MP's salary which amounts to £1,800.

I am sure my colleagues will think of many more examples.

All we have ever asked for is fairness and to be recognised for the work and contribution we have made to our country in days gone by and still do in many charitable organisations. What we see today disgusts us and the respect we had for those in authority has rapidly diminished. The least they can do is to restore some dignity to our years and restore the integrity their high office once held:
To all our members and those groups across the country, we are asking for support in our Manifesto quest if we are to make any impression on the political parties we must ALL shout from the same hymn sheet. This is not the time to be apathetic and I am also referring to those who are quite comfortable with their private pensions, you owe your support to those struggling and to those who are just retiring and have lost a large part of their pension pot, we must all stand together, including those who are at present on benefits, times can change, no-one can predict the future. In our lifetime we have seen changes we could never have dreamed of.

The power behind any political party is their Constituency 0fficers-at-their local offices. ­They are the ears of the party, particularly before an election, they want to know what the people are thinking. They want your vote. It is about the only time they do listen but they are powerful. They instruct their MPs on what is necessary in the Manifesto to get your vote. The Constituency committees make the decisions to pass on your concerns to head office and if they have a Constituency which has a large number of older residents shouting their needs, they would be foolish not to listen.

Also, there will be one more party conference before the election where the decisions will be made by the grass roots membership.
So, write to or contact your local branch, state what it will take to get your vote, leave them in no doubt. If we are going to get any success, then it is up to all of YOU to make the effort, without clear guidelines from you we will once again end up with a Government totally unaware of the problems it is creating for the elderly.

This was written before Darling's Budget - ­he might have some goodies for us but I doubt it. Your comments, please, good or bad. Suggestions always welcome - this is YOUR FORUM.
(With thanks to Harold James for his contribution towards this article)

 

 
 

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