Pensioners - 'It's still not enough'

By Juliette MaxamA PRIME opportunity to reverse pensioner poverty was missed in the Budget, campaigners said.Gordon Brown's promises of a lump sum to pensioners to them help cope with the swingeing effect of council taxes on their fixed incomes was welcomed, but only up to a point.

By Juliette Maxam

A PRIME opportunity to reverse pensioner poverty was missed in the Budget, campaigners said.

Gordon Brown's promises of a lump sum to pensioners to them help cope with the swingeing effect of council taxes on their fixed incomes was welcomed, but only up to a point.

This year the over-70s are to get an extra £100. This means that together with the winter fuel payment, pensioners over 70 will get £300 and those over 80 will get £400.


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Announcing the £100 payment, which is set to cost £475 million, Mr Brown said: “The evidence shows that their council tax bills take a higher share of their incomes than the rest of the population.”

Colchester Pensioners' Action Group chairman, Barbara Williamson, welcomed the extra money, but added: “It would be far better if we had a realistic pension linked to earnings.

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“I would have hoped to see an increase in pensions or some change to council tax. It does need to be linked to ability to pay. That's the only way you can really help pensioners.

“Any extra is a help, but certainly £100 towards council tax is going to be swallowed up right away.”

Pensioner Tony Constable, fron Colchester, who has protested against council tax increases, dismissed the Chancellor's Budget as “tinkering”.

He added: “He's not in fact interested in pensioners one iota. It's not worth even talking about.”

Mr Constable said he would like the Government to axe means-tested benefits and use the money saved to give pensioners a “decent” rise.

Age Concern's director general, Gordon Lishman, said: “It's a disgrace that the state pension is so inadequate that people have to rely on one-off payments to cover daily living costs.”

He called on the Government to turn its back on means-testing and to increase the basic state pension to a minimum of £105 a week to lift pensioners out of poverty.

Campaigners felt Mr Brown should also have tackled council tax benefit, which up to a third of pensioners were not claiming, and the means-tested pension credit, which was being claimed by only about half of those entitled to it.

They added the Budget offered no incentive to support the Government's policy that working longer and saving more would avert a pensions crisis.

There was also frustration that no significant retraining and education package was announced that would encourage employers to recruit and retain older workers.

Mervyn Kohler, head of public affairs at Help the Aged, said: “The productivity and revenue gained from encouraging more older people to work would make a significant difference to the limitations that the Chancellor will face in future spending reviews and Budgets. This was an opportunity to be bold and is an opportunity missed.”

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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