Added pressure Jeremy Hunt as Age UK campaigners urge him to sort Triple Lock
Experts and MPs privately believe the Chancellor is preparing to announce next April’s state pension will go up by 8.5 per cent despite discussions about paying it out at a lower rate.
Age UK said the row has been “hugely unsettling” for many older people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “The prolonged speculation about what may or may not happen with the Triple Lock in today’s Autumn statement has been hugely unsettling for the many millions who depend on their State Pension, and who are struggling to make ends meet.
“We hope that tomorrow the Government will draw a line under all the uncertainty, keep its promise to older people and honour their triple lock commitment next year in full.”
Nearly 280,000 people signed our petition with Silver Voices calling for the government to honour the full increase that wage growth figures should trigger when the settlement is made.
Our crusade came after it emerged the government was stripping out public sector bonuses to reduce the figure to 7.8 per cent, which would leave recipients £75 a year worse off than expected.
It would save the Treasury around £900 million next year.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “It would be political madness for the Conservatives to undermine the triple lock and it would infuriate their own backbenchers.
“There is absolutely nothing to be gained from breaking a manifesto promise so close to a general election, and thousands of undecided votes to lose.
“If the autumn statement turns out to be all about tax cuts, any savings made by robbing pensioners will immediately be contrasted with tax gains made by the better off.
“A public relations disaster, with ugly consequences for struggling older people, looms if our warnings are not heeded.”
One MP said they “expect” Mr Hunt to pay the higher rate, while an industry expert said they believed better public finances than forecast meant it was also likely to go ahead in full.
Lord Foulkes, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Older People, said: “Older people will study the Chancellor’s statement with great care to make sure that there is no sleight of hand or trickery on the pension triple lock.
“This time it must be the full level of wage increase that is used to increase the pension. Anything less would be a betrayal.
“The whole purpose of the triple lock is to ratchet up the basic pension from the paltry level in the UK so we start giving older people an income that is nearer our neighbours and enables them to heat their homes and feed themselves without worry.”
Jan Shortt , general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, said: “There is much said about its affordability and whether it is the right mechanism.
“The NPC wants to see an open and transparent discussion on the future of the state pension and the triple lock indexing method to ensure that all pensioners, now and in the future, are able to live with dignity and respect in their later years.
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“It is imperative that the Chancellor does not use his statement to offer incentives to the wealthy at the expense of pensioners, disabled people, families and others struggling to cope with the energy crisis and a variety of increased household bills.”
Analysis of official figures found around 1.2 million households are “mainly reliant” on the dependent on the state pension for their retirement income.
It means at least three quarters of their cash comes from the payment. Single pensioners account for most of the households and three times as many women, 580,000, as men 180,000, rely primarily on it.
The Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) has calculated the annual minimum income for a single pensioner should be £12,800 a year but the new state pension is only £10,600.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at retirement specialist Just Group, said: “The wide-spread financial fragility and state income dependence highlighted in our research places even greater pressure on the Chancellor to confirm the triple lock in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement.
“Maintaining the triple lock could be a lifeline for the vast number of pensioners whose livelihoods depend on the state pension keeping up with costs of living.”
Mr Hunt is reportedly considering wider pension reforms that would allow a lifetime pot that operates more like a bank account.
Currently, employers automatically place workers into a scheme that has been selected by the company.
When someone moves from job to job, this can create multiple pension pots, with some potentially getting lost.
Becky O’Connor, director of public affairs at PensionBee, said a “pot for life” could help people to engage with their pension and boost competition within the industry.
She said: “A pension could become a bit like having a bank account, into which different employers can pay. It’s good for savers, giving them more say over how they want to grow their retirement fund and, hopefully, a decent solution to the problem of lost pension pots.
But former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, a partner at LCP, raised concerns that employers’ ability to “bulk buy” could be lost.
He said: “Workplace pensions are currently a wholesale business where employers negotiate a good value deal for their entire workforce.
“As a result, the average workplace pension charge is currently below 0.5%. If the system was fragmented, this bulk buying power of employers would be lost.”
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