Pensions pledges from politicians
Promises, but no new money
ORDINARY PENSIONERS will not have been taken in by the Tory party's sudden concern over their welfare. They remember the dark years of Thatcherism. However, William Hague's party did not penalise all pensioners in its years in office.
The tax breaks and handouts to the rich which marked all its policies also benefited a minority of rich pensioners. The gap between the richest tenth and poorest tenth of pensioners in Britain increased five-fold during the Tory years. The Tory claims that pensioners' wealth increased under their rule is a lie too. The entire increase in "average" income was accounted for by the richest fifth of pensioners pocketing even more.
WILLIAM HAGUE is a con merchant. To fund his pensions pledge Hague would scrap the �150 pensioners' winter fuel allowance and free TV licences for the over 75s. His pledge amounts to giving pensioners some 42p a week more than now. Even that tiny amount would come from robbing others in need. Hague says he would grab �90 million from the social fund, which provides emergency loans to the poorest people. He would also steal a similar sum from lone parents by scrapping payments they get under the New Deal.
PENSIONERS groups want the link between pensions and earnings restored. If the link had not been broken in 1980 the basic pension would now be �97.45 for single people and �155.80 for couples. That is still far from adequate, but it would at least lift all pensioners above the charity Age Concern's poverty line.
THE government claims that it has not increased the basic pension because it is channelling money to the very poorest pensioners instead through its "Minimum Income Guarantee". The "guarantee" is a double con. Firstly, its level is miserable. It is set to rise next year to just �82 a week for a single pensioner. And the "guarantee" is simply a renamed Income Support, and is means tested.
Brown fakes it
NEW LABOUR claims it is targeting the poorest pensioners because most pensioners are much better off. The government produced figures showing that the "average" single pensioner gets �132 a week and a couple �258.
This is a cynical misuse of statistics. The figures are distorted by the income of a small minority of wealthy pensioners. If you strip these people out, the real "average" for the vast bulk of pensioners in Britain is just �93 a week for a single person.
The money's there
SOME PEOPLE claim the money isn't there to restore the link with earnings. Yet the national insurance fund from which pensions are supposed to be funded is already over �6 billion in surplus, and the surplus is set to grow to �10.5 billion. And Britain's employers get off paying any kind of fair share towards pensions. French bosses, for instance, have to pay three times as much in national insurance contributions towards workers' pensions as British bosses.