Pensions call after council tax hike

PENSIONERS in Suffolk are set to lobby a Government minister to demand a steep rise in state pensions following a massive hike in council tax bills.The Suffolk Pensioners' Association says the huge 18.

By Richard Smith

PENSIONERS in Suffolk are set to lobby a Government minister to demand a steep rise in state pensions following a massive hike in council tax bills.

The Suffolk Pensioners' Association says the huge 18.5% rise in Suffolk's council tax levy – coupled with higher care home charges – has left them "out of pocket from the word go".

A small pensions boost in next month's Budget would simply be swallowed up by the higher costs, it will argue.

Now the group has started a campaign in the build up to the Budget to persuade the Government to make a sizeable increase.

Jack Thain, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said they had met Mike More, Suffolk County Council's chief executive – and they now wanted to see Ian McCartney, the work and pensions minister.

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He said: "This is very important. We also have to fight for the working person coming forward in life. The state pension is so small it will not cover the basic living standards and the amount of extra money we are getting in April, which is just under £2 a week, will not pay for the other increases.

"We have been told by various senior people that the Government has taken part of the normal amount that goes to our councils and given it to the north east of England. I would not like the north east to be an impoverished area but I do not see why they have to take it away from the pensioners."

Mr Thain said members were feeling "aggrieved" and the latest blow was the increase in the hourly charge for home care offered by the county council which was rising more than £2.50 to £11.50.

The state pension is to rise in April from £75.50 a week for men to £77.45 and for women it rises from £45.20 to £46.35. Now pensioners are calling for a further rise to be announced in next month's Budget.

John Lancaster, chairman of the group's Whitehouse west end branch in Ipswich, said: "The council house rent restructuring – our rent is going up by close on £2 a week this year – and the council tax increase means we are out of pocket from the word go.

"The pensioners' movement generally feels that the state pension should revert to the wages index link which Maggie Thatcher took away instead of being linked to the retail price index. If it had stayed linked with the wages index we would now be getting £30 more a week than we get at the moment.''

The department of work and pensions said last night it could not pre-empt what the Budget would offer for pensions.

A spokeswoman added: ''The Government has done a lot to target pension poverty including the introduction of the minimum income guarantee and the fuel payments and we are spending an extra £6 billion a year on pensioners.''

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