Thursday, 1 April 2010

Older People's Pledge

I was pleased today to launch in Hackney our national Older People's Pledge - a pledge which makes us the only political party to back demands for a state pension of £170 a week, accompanied by a whole set of key national policies designed to make Britain a better place in which to grow old.

After a lifetime of hard work and contributing to society, pensioners deserve better than having to scrape by on an inadequate state pension. It's only fair that the basic state pension should be enough to live on - which is why Greens would make sure that all pensioners receive a non-means-tested £170 per week, as well as free social care for all who need it, as is currently offered in Scotland.

The figure of £170 per week is calculated as the minimum required to keep the basic state pension above the official poverty line, according to the National Pensioners' Convention, in their Pensioners' Manifesto (which you can download here).

The National Pensioners' Convention have been kind enough to acknowledge our work in this area, and one of their spokespeople commented this week:

"The NPC welcomes the Green Party's commitment to improving the basic state pension for Britain's 11m older voters and hopes that other parties will see the economic and moral sense in tackling pensioner poverty. This is something no political party should ignore."

In addition to raising pensioners above the poverty line, the Greens are pledging to end the default retirement age, so that people have the freedom to go on working and contributing to society if they wish to, free from discrimination on the basis of age.

Michelle Mitchell, Age Concern and Help the Aged’s Charity Director, said:

“We welcome the Green Party’s focus on older people and desire to address the challenges of ageing as we head towards the general election. Abolishing the default retirement age and increasing the basic state pension are absolutely key to improving the retirement prospects for millions of older people.”

We'd pay for the £170 per week pension in a variety of ways. There are roughly 12 million pensioners living in the UK and a further 1 million living abroad. Paying a single rate of £170 per week, and a couples rate of £300 per week, will cost £110bn per year. The current basic state pension, plus certain other specific pensioner benefits like Pensions Credits paid to those of pension age (which would become redundant if the basic pension rate was raised to the level we propose) costs £70bn. For the remaining £40 billion, we would abolish tax relief on pension contributions (£20 billion), and the national insurance rebate on employer and employee contributions to private pension schemes (£19 billion). The final £1 billion will come from increased income tax receipts from pensioners.

In 2009-10, the full basic State Pension is £95.25 a week. For a married couple who both qualify, it is £190.50 a week. From April 6 2010, these figures will rise by 2.5% - with a Green government, they'd almost double.

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