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The ominous sound of silence on the future of pensions

27 April, 2017

Theresa May

MRS May’s silence told it all. The SNP’s deputy leader Angus Robertson challenged her with a straightforward question at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He asked whether she intended to retain the “triple-lock” pension guarantee – to increase the state pension every year by which ever is highest: the rate of inflation; the increase in average earnings, or 2.5 per cent.

Pointedly, she evaded answering him.

The coming weeks will shed clarity on this. But several Tory MPs have been kite-flying with the idea in recent weeks.

It is all part of a pattern considering that politicians have recently called for a compulsory social care insurance system along the lines of the German scheme while ending such benefits for pensioners as the free bus pass, free prescriptions and the winter fuel allowance – as well as the triple-lock pension.

For some years the political establishment, along with economists and a variety of academics, have been opining that unless the present welfare system is drastically reformed it will not be able to deal with our ageing population.

While this could be seen as a compelling argument it ignores other aspects of the economy. What we do with all the tax-generated revenue depends on what we spend it on.

Are we spending too much, say, on defence? Can we afford such vanity projects such as HS2? Why are we failing to collect the right amount of corporation tax from such behemoths as Google and Amazon?

To end the triple-lock will cut the value of pensions, already lower than in some other European countries.

End the free bus pass – and the life of pensioners will suffer. Real political storms are on the horizon.

Open debate will pay dividends

Georgia Gould is expected to become the new leader of Camden Council

THE public gallery was unusually busy at the all-member Town Hall meeting on Monday evening. There must be an election coming, you may say. But with seven public deputations on some very different issues, the meeting at last sounded like an opportunity for the council to talk to its residents, rather than the puerile point-scoring of the past five years which has proved such a turn-off.

The motion section – the only real time councillors vote on policies together – was sensibly brought forward rather than its normal, unloved slot at the back of meeting. Does this signal a new willingness for the council to make the full council meetings and other council sessions more meaningful events? It has sometimes been seen as a risk for the ruling party to let the public in too often, or to debate and vote on awkward policies which could divide their own group in public.

But open debate and a more engaged community will provide dividends for all.

Georgia Gould, expected to be named as the new leader of Camden Council next week, has talked encouragingly about moving in this direction. We urge her to carry on the reforms.

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