Pensioner calls for his state pension to be 'unfrozen'
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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure as his Spring Statement is torn apart. He has been questioned about his decision not to match benefits, due to rise by just 3.1 percent in April, to the surge in inflation. Inflation is expected to reach as high as 8 percent this spring. The Resolution Foundation think tank claimed the package of measures last week would push 1.3 million people, including 500,000 children, into poverty.
Among the most concerned are those on the state pension, whose income will also increase by just 3.1 percent.
This is because the Government announced last year it was to suspend the triple lock for a year amid fears that an 8.3 percent rise (in line with average earnings) was unfair.
Former pensions minister Steve Webb told the Financial Times last week that when the triple lock returns, state pensioners will enjoy their biggest cash rise ever.
But in the meantime, the 3.1 percent increase will mean many are squeezed financially.
He said: “Pensioners are set to face a financial rollercoaster in the coming years with a tough squeeze this year followed by a catch-up next year.
“The spring statement will have been a big disappointment, and some pensioners may find themselves having to apply to their council for hardship funds simply to make ends meet.
“But next year should see the biggest ever cash rise in the value of the state pension, as pension rates catch up. The problem is that ‘jam tomorrow’ will not pay bills today”.
It is clear that anger about the short term is palpable – earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of “betraying” 12 million pensioners.
This came after Labour Party analysis suggested that the retired will experience the sharpest real-terms drop in their incomes in half a century.
Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said that the retired were “cutting back on hot meals” and “forgoing hot showers”.
He added: “Far from helping retirees with the cost of living crises as promised, Rishi Sunak has just imposed the biggest real-terms cut to the basic state pension in 50 years.
“When heating bills are going through the roof, this pension cut amounts to daylight robbery and will make things more difficult for thousands of pensioners. Pensioners have been betrayed by Boris Johnson.”
Baroness Ros Altmann, who is a former pensions minister, told Express.co.uk in November that ditching the triple lock would “cost lives”.
She said: “We already know that pensioners were struggling to make ends meet if they only had the state pension payments, and given the rise of prices is affecting basic goods like food and energy, they will increasingly this winter have to choose between keeping warm and keeping fed.
“It could well cost lives.
“The fact is the Government [has] taken money off the poorest people in the country, and I don’t believe that is fair.
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“I believe that is an absolute betrayal, I really do feel this was a very wrong decision.
“I hope the fuss we make this year will mean that this doesn’t happen again.”
Chancellor Sunak defended his Spring Statement on Tuesday as he appeared before a Treasury select committee.
Mr Sunak said he disagreed with the idea that “Government can or should” compensate everybody for the resulting real-terms hit to their finances, especially when global factors are at play.
He also said he had decided to keep borrowing down “at a time when we are worried about the macroeconomic outlook, particularly with regard to interest rates and inflation”.
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