State pension nightmare as OAPs plunged into ‘doom loop’

PMQs: Rishi Sunak’s first opening statement as PM

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

Rishi Sunak is refusing to commit to a 10 per cent increase in state pensions just seven days after the bumper rise was promised. Campaigners fear the new Prime Minister and Chancellor want to raid the cash earmarked for state pensions hikes to help fill the £40 billion blackhole in Treasury coffers. They say the constant chopping and changing is “torture” for older people on fixed incomes.

Downing Street and the Treasury refused to guarantee the inflation-linked rise planned for April will still go ahead.

It comes one week after Liz Truss overruled Jeremy Hunt to announce the triple lock remained in place.

Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “Pensioners are in a doom loop on this issue.

“We keep having our hopes built up and then they are dashed again.

“I thought this issue had finally been put to bed. We really need some reassurance now.

“We are at the start of winter and people are worried about how they are going to pay their fuel bills.

“They are at their wits’ end over whether they are going to be able to make ends meet. 

“It is just torture for a lot of people.

“The original promise was broken when Rishi Sunak was Chancellor.”

Mr Sunak entered Downing Street warning he would have to make “difficult” decisions to help balance the books.

The Autumn Statement setting out how debt will be reduced has been moved back from Halloween to November 17 to give the new PM and Mr Hunt more time to work on it.

At his first Prime Minister’s questions, Mr Sunak said the Government would have to “take difficult decisions to restore economic stability and confidence”.

He added: “What I can say is that, as we did during Covid, we will always protect the most vulnerable and we will do this in a fair way.”

Downing Street said the future of the triple lock could not be confirmed until Autumn Statement, despite previous Prime Minister Ms Truss committing to it before her government’s planned financial statement was carried out.

Mr Sunak’s press secretary said the lock is “something that is going to be wrapped up” into the fiscal statement and “we wouldn’t comment ahead of any fiscal statements or budgets”.

“But what I can say is he has shown through his record as Chancellor is that he will do what’s right and compassionate for the most vulnerable,” she added.

The lock pegs state pension increases to the highest of 2.5 per cent, wages rises or inflation.

Downing Street insiders said Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt had not met yet to discuss it but refused to guarantee the pledge still stands.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “There have been so many twists and turns over the Government’s public approach to the triple lock that it has been hard to know whether to laugh or cry.  

“Certainly, to renege on it again would be a low blow for older people and would undoubtedly diminish their sense of trust in our political leaders.  

“The constant flip-flopping over the triple lock in the last few weeks has been upsetting and destabilising for them, especially for those on low incomes who are already deeply concerned about how they will make ends meet as inflation reduces their purchasing power.

“They need certainty over how much money they can expect to have coming in, and as soon as possible.

“It is important to remember that the Conservative party made a manifesto promise to uphold the triple lock and anything less than this would mean a real terms cut in the State Pension, which is only worth on average about £9,000 a year, yet comprises the bulk of the income for most older people in our country.

“Older people told Age UK during the summer that restoring the triple lock was their top priority for an incoming Prime Minister, and against this context and with the prices of everyday items continuing to rise it’s easy to see why.”

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, said “The triple lock u-turns continue with state pensioners now being told the Government won’t make any commitments ahead of the November 17 autumn statement. 

“This comes after previous Prime Minister Liz Truss committed to honouring it the day before resigning, now replaced by Rishi Sunak. 

“The eventual outcome after so many twists and turns is too tough to call.”

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “Older people are paying the price for the Conservatives’ economic mess. Rishi Sunak stood on a manifesto in 2019 on a pledge to keep the triple lock. Now he’s threatening that promise to Britain’s retirees. 

“With pensioners struggling under the Conservatives cost of living crisis, it’s clear that Rishi Sunak is not on their side.

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of an “endless hokey cokey” over pensions and the triple lock.

Last September while Chancellor, Mr Sunak ditched part of the formula that guarantees a decent rise after a quirk caused by the covid crisis meant some state pensions would go up by around £14 a week.

He said he hoped people would see the change was “fair” as the government grappled with balancing the books after the pandemic as well as tackling problems in social care.

He said at the time: “It’s temporary, it’s just for this year and so hopefully pensioners will feel reassured that not only have we protected them in the past, we are protecting them this year with an at least 2.5 per cent increase in pensions or higher if that cost of living is increasing faster than that.

“And we will continue with the triple lock thereafter.”

Since then inflation has soared and has now topped ten per cent.

Mr Sunak also committed to restoring the lock again when he was running against Ms Truss in the summer to become Prime Minister.

Today marked the date when single retirees’ average yearly spend exceeded their annual State Pension.

The shortfall is around £2,000 as food prices and energy bills continue to rise, according to analysis by retirement specialist Just Group.

‘Pensioners are not taken seriously enough by the Government’

Jean Hardiman Smith, 73, is irritated and upset all over again about the new speculation surrounding the triple lock pension guarantee.

“I feel that once again pensioners are being taken advantage of, that our challenges and issues are not taken seriously enough by the Government,” she said.

“Last year the triple lock was cut back to a double lock. Now after the triple lock increase with the rate of inflation was confirmed by Liz Truss only a week or so ago, her successor Rishi Sunak won’t get off the fence and reinforce that pledge.

“But honouring the triple lock was a manifesto promise and that money is needed by millions of pensioners on fixed incomes as inflation pushes up the prices of everything.”

The former lecturer suffers from Coeliac’s Disease and can’t afford much of the expensive gluten-free foods her diet demands on her £142 a week basic pension.

Dr Hardiman Smith, and her husband Kenneth, 68, a former computer consultant, are also struggling with soaring energy costs and rising food bills.

She retired at 60 and before April 2016 so she only qualifies for the ‘old’ state pension.

Meanwhile Mr Hardiman Smith receives the full ‘new’ state pension of £185 a week.

“That too is also confusing and unfair,” said Dr Hardiman Smith, speaking from the couple’s home near Chester, Cheshire.

“Kenneth didn’t work longer than me or pay more tax so why people who retire after a certain age get more money is confusing.

“That extra £43 would make a lot of difference to us.

“A gluten-free diet is expensive, bread is £3.50 a loaf, our energy bills are soaring as are lots of other living costs as inflation pushes the prices up.

“Older people have paid tax all their working lives and continue to pay tax into retirement, I do think it’s unfair to penalise the elderly with a two-tier pension system.”

The mother of one and grandma of four is the co-author of the National Pensioners Convention Goodbye Cinderella proposal for a National Care Service and chair of its Health and Care Working Party.

She called on the new Prime Minister and his Chancellor Jeremey Hunt to be fair to pensioners and raise the triple lock in line with inflation and say they are doing so immediately so the elderly can stop worrying.

“I recently heard that pawn shops are making a comeback because so many people are selling their possessions,” she said.

“That’s an awful way to live.”

‘I will have to decide between eating or heating’

Mike Smith, 76, is a lifelong Conservative voter but he won’t be voting blue at the next election if the Government reneges on its promise to keep the triple lock. 

“At the moment, I am just about keeping my head about water,” he said.

“I’m just about surviving, but if my energy bills go up by 50 per cent or more, I will have to decide between eating or turning my heating on.

“I still have a small amount of savings, but it’s not going to last long if I need a new boiler or something like that.

“As a lifelong Conservative supporter, I shall not be voting blue in any forthcoming elections. Although I don’t feel we have a proper opposition right now.

“I suspect Rishi Sunak has kept Jeremy Hunt in post because he will get rid of the triple-lock.”

Mr Smith lives off a reduced State pension with just £663 a month to pay his bills. 

He lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in Cambridge and when it is very cold he stays in bed until midday in a bid to keep warm.

“I have a very good deal and my energy bill at the moment is £40 a month, but I’m very worried about this upcoming rise in the price cap which could see the direct debit double,” he said.

“At the moment, I’m just keeping my head above water. I’m just about surviving, but if my energy bills go up by 50 per cent or more, I will have to decide between eating or turning my heating on.

“I still have a small amount of savings, but it’s not going to last long if I need a new boiler or something like that.

“I’m already very careful with what energy I use. I don’t turn the heating on until late afternoon.

“In fact, I’m careful with any spending. I haven’t bought new clothes for years, I buy from charity shops.

“Cambridge is very expensive, it’s all London price here. It’s a beautiful place to live but you can’t eat beauty.”

Mr Smith previously worked for King’s College, part of the University of Cambridge, but had to stop working in 1988 after contracting the ME virus. 

He now receives a reduced State pension as a result of the lower National Insurance contributions he made.

He does qualify for some extra welfare support but new eligibility criteria means he has lost the help of a carer who came once a day.

“Everyone I know my age is worried about budgeting,” he said.

Source: Read Full Article