State pension freeze: Lord Jones raises issue of ‘unfairness’
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Pensioners are expecting a weekly increase of up to £14 a week, equivalent to more than £700 a year, because the pandemic has skewed the figures used to calculate the rise. It would leave the Treasury scrabbling to find at least £3billion more than it had budgeted for. Downing Street said the Government had to “ensure fairness for both pensioners and taxpayers”. A spokesman said: “The Chancellor has said previously that the triple lock is Government policy, but we’ll recognise people’s concerns.
“We will obviously keep figures and numbers under review, as we always do, and take any decisions at the appropriate time.”
The triple lock guarantees that the state pension increases in line with inflation, wage growth or 2.5 percent, whichever is higher.
However, average earnings are expected to rise at least eight percent this year because they are measured against the same period the previous year, which means they will be
compared to pandemic wages.
Last night campaign groups warned that older people are becoming more frustrated at how they are being treated, especially following the loss of free TV licences for the over-75s.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “If the triple lock is suspended, which changing the figures amounts to, there would be uproar among older people. For many, particularly those who voted Conservative, this will be the final straw.
“I have had lots of emails from members who are disillusioned that the older vote is being taken for granted. First it was TV licences, now free prescriptions for people in their early 60s are under threat. There has been a failure to deliver on social care, a whole range of issues.
“The triple lock is so totemic for older voters that it will be a breaking point.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the Government “declined to step in and save the free TV licence” which “hardly helps to build trust” with older voters.
She warned that “some of the prominent voices” calling for a triple lock suspension this year are the “same people who otherwise call for its abolition year after year”.
She added: “It’s asking a lot for older people to believe that any scaling back of the triple lock would only be temporary, rather than permanent.
“Moreover, for all the talk of older people ‘never having had it so good’, the reality is that pensioner poverty is on the rise and currently tops two million, so there’s a copper- bottomed argument for keeping the triple lock now and far into the future, to protect and hopefully increase the retirement incomes of tomorrow’s older people, as well as today’s.”
Former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, a partner at consultants LCP, said: “The Government committed less than two years ago to keep to the triple lock policy for the whole parliament. But the current mood music from them is very different.
“Talk of keeping figures ‘under review’ suggests that the Treasury is preparing the ground either to abandon the pledge altogether or, more likely, to fudge the numbers to keep the cost under control.”
An eight percent increase would be worth around £14 a week for those on the new state pension and around £10 for the old version.
A former Cabinet minister said they had “some sympathy” with the Government as “we have to get our economy back on an even keel and must prioritise economic growth”.
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