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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 January 2014

Austerity: 'We're not being feather-bedded'

Pensioners are not economic 'joy riders'

Val Pearce

I am not often driven to put pen to paper but the following headline, "Someone needs to fight the selfish, short-sighted old", on a recent Guardian article by ex-MP, ex-prisoner Chris Huhne did nothing for my blood pressure.

The article went on to say "the cost of pandering to pensioners means we are penalising our young in relation to education, healthcare and housing" and "Cameron was forced to protect pensions. This left far worse cuts to be inflicted on the rest of the welfare budget."

This continual attack on us older people demands a response. Here goes. The state pension is 110.15 a week - and that is only if you have paid your full quota of national insurance contributions (which is why the majority of women at present do not receive the full pension).

If you add the winter fuel allowance this amounts to less than 6,000 a year.

Hard hit

To be told austerity cuts have passed us by is incomprehensible. We are hit hard by the criminal increases we have seen over the last few years in fuel costs alongside rising food prices, rent increases and if you are lucky to have savings, the complete devaluation of them.

The provisional figures published in November 2013 showed there were 31,000 'excess deaths' between December 2012 and March 2013 of older people from cold related illnesses, an increase of 29%, which is equal to 260 deaths a day. So much for austerity passing us by.

It is time for us to realise just what our contribution is to the British economy. There are eleven million pensioners in Britain. 4.5 million pay income tax at the standard rate; 6.4 million have incomes below 10,500 per annum and are not required to pay tax.

The revenue collected by the state from older people, either directly through a range of taxes or through costs that older people bear that would otherwise be paid by the state, adds up to a staggering 175.8 billion every year, compared to total expenditure on older people through pensions, welfare payments and healthcare of 136.2 billion.

The overall, annual net contribution by older people to the economy is therefore almost 40 billion and is estimated to rise to almost 75 billion by 2030.

Most importantly, this is more than enough to pay for the 8 billion worth of age-related benefits that are now being questioned.

Even if benefits were taken away from the majority of pensioners, the amount of money saved would be questionable given that the introduction of a means-tested system would involve setting up a costly bureaucracy to administer the payments (especially if people's assets were to be assessed).

The chance that losing a bus pass or a winter fuel allowance could inevitably lead to some older people needing extra support from social services and the NHS.

Dot Gibson, National Pensions Convention general secretary, said: "This idea that the country's economy is struggling because an army of millionaire pensioners are joy riding with their free bus passes is absolute nonsense.

"The economic crisis is being used as an excuse to undermine the welfare state and roll back some of our hard earned gains - many of which are necessary because the UK has one of the worse state pensions in Europe."

Our state pension is not a benefit or a hand-out. It is an entitlement; in fact it's a paltry return on a working lifetime's compulsory savings taken out of each pay packet.

We make a huge contribution and we should demand that this is recognised not only by what we contribute once we have retired but also what we contributed during our working lives.

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In The Socialist 15 January 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Evict the Con-Dems!

Huge anger at inquest verdict on killing of Mark Duggan

Pensioners are not economic 'joy riders'

Gove wages war on history teachers

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Ariel Sharon: a brutal architect of monstrous crimes

Seattle: '15 Now' minimum wage campaign launched

Socialist Party workplace news

RMT v Johnson: Union prepares to defend London Underground

Teachers need a strategy to win

The underbelly of prison privatisation

Unison: National anti-cuts battle needed

Support Glasgow care workers fighting attacks

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party youth and students

Organising fast food workers

Pupils chase hated Gove around their school

More attacks on further education funding

University bosses' snouts in the trough

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Exploratory drillers told to "Frack Off"

"I'll be voting for the trade unionists"

Building the Socialist Party

Obituary: Jimmy Parry, Liverpool 47 socialist councillor

Socialist Party review

Film review: 12 Years a Slave


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