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Independent Green Voice

SUPPORT OUR PENSIONERS

There are 10,514,100 people in Britain who draw the state pension. They receive an average state pension of £85.55 per week. A further 988,700 draw the state pension abroad.

The following table indicates the number of people claiming pension per region, and the average weekly payment. Figures are from the Department of Work and Pensions for Sept 2004.

Great Britain

10,514,100

£85.55

Abroad

988,700

£36.97

Wales

582,600

£83.54

South West

1,066,300

£83.80

Yorkshire and The Humber

922,600

£84.57

Northern

586,600

£84.75

East Midlands

786,300

£85.47

North West

1,145,600

£85.77

West Midlands

985,800

£85.62

Scotland

935,300

£85.99

London

956,300

£86.16

East Anglia

454,600

£85.48

South East

2,092,100

£87.08

The link between pensions and earnings was removed in 1980. Pensioners groups have long campaigned to restore the link and to raise the pension to the level it would be at, if the link had not been broken.

For example, the following is the recommendations of the National Pensioners Convention:

THE 10-POINT PLAN OF
THE NATIONAL PENSIONER'S CONVENTION

1. An immediate increase in the basic state pension to the level of the Pensions Credit.
2. The restoration of the link between the basic state pension and average earnings.
3. The maintenance and strengthening of the national insurance fund as the basis for providing financial security in retirement.
4. A £22 weekly age addition for the over 75s.
5. All nursing and personal care to be provided free at the point of delivery, whether in hospital, nursing homes or one's own home.
6. Comprehensive health care, provided free at the point of need, including community care.
7. Free TV licences, free travel on public transport and a £200 winter fuel allowance for all pensioners.
8. The removal of standing charges on gas, electricity, water and telephone.
9. Legislation to end age discrimination in all areas of society.
10. Pensioners and their representatives to be involved in every level of policy-making and development that affects the lives of older people.

"INDEPENDENCE DIVIDEND" FOR PENSIONERS
Euro-realists have long pointed out the extent to which pensions could be supported from the annual payments which presently go to the European Union. At a gross payment of £36m a day to Brussels and with 10.5m pensioners at home, this works out at £3.43 per day per pensioner, or £24 per week.

However, it is unrealistic to imagine, or to suggest, that the entire "Independence Dividend" would be spent on increasing the state pension! Nevertheless, the point is clear that if we left the EU, there would be more money in the bag, which could be spent on pensions and care for the elderly.

ADDITIONAL POLICIES

  • Abolish means-testing, which punishes those who save for their retirement.
  • No extension of the minimum public service retirement age, whether to 65 or beyond.
  • Just as there should be no extension of the retirement age, so there should be no compulsory retirement for those who want to continue to work. As has been demonstrated here, any economic challenges faced by demographic change can be offset by advantaging those older British citizens who want to return to paid employment. If by 2021 we have been able to encourage between one-in-ten and one-in-seven otherwise unpaid 50-69 year olds in the UK to take paid employment, then we can more than pay for the costs of demographic change. It's not necessary to import people from all over the world!
  • Roll out energy-efficiency programmes to ensure local councils have a statutory duty to ensure high insulation standards in all homes.
  • Assistance for those who choose to look after their elderly relatives at home.
  • Encourage a study into the feasibility of a Citizen's Income which would be given to all British citizens as of right, which would replace many of the existing benefits, and potentially simplify the welfare system.

FUND PENSIONS THROUGH LOCAL INVESTMENT
Furthermore, consideration should be given to the concept of a "People's Pension Fund" which links pensions with local investment in public services and is not subject to the ups and downs of the stock market.

This could be a way out of the pensions crisis plaguing the UK. Devised by Richard Murphy, Colin Hines and Labour MP Alan Simpson, it proposes a new framework for pensions, based on investment in public infrastructure projects and services, which is currently not an option for UK pension funds.

As Richard Murphy says, "We have a pension crisis because we've been investing pension cash in the wrong things. The stock market has absorbed most UK pension investment, but less than 15 per cent of that money has actually been used to create new investment in the UK economy. The rest has been used for speculation. The government now has a duty to make sure that a more reliable basis for paying pensions is created -- we can't gamble our future security again. People's Pensions can create that security. It will also mean that the current annual £16.5 billion of state subsidy for pensions, most of which is now gambled, is better used."

Colin Hines says, "What we are providing here is a new choice for those who want to save for their retirement. No-one would have to buy a People's Pension. But if you did you'd have the benefit of knowing you'd provided for your old age and helped your local economy, all at the same time. A People's Pension Fund that could be invested in health, transport, education, sustainable energy and social housing projects -- depending on the investor's choice -- would provide the double benefit of boosting the cash available for public services projects, at a much lower cost than PPP or PFI options, and restocking the value of UK pension plans so that they provide a secure and dignified retirement."

You can get a copy of the report by contacting, the New Economics Foundation,
3 Jonathan Street, London, SE11 5NH, Tel: 020 7820 6300 or you can download it free from
http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/z_sys_PublicationDetail.aspx?PID=131

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