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Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 21:37 GMT

Pensioners: Put us back to where we were

Name Geoffrey and Ailsa Boyson
Married Yes
Children Two, grown up and living away from home
Gross earnings n/a
Gross pension income 2,000pcm (Geoffrey 1,500 and Janet 500)
Gross savings income 265pcm
Mortgage payments n/a
Pension payments n/a
Cars One (private)
Car insurance 283
Household insurance 277
Beer 0 pints/week
Wine 1 bottles/week
Spirits 0 bottles/week
Tobacco 0 packets of 20/week
Petrol 60 litres/week

Geoffrey and Ailsa Boyson are retired teachers. Geoffrey is the former vice-principal of a Leicestershire community college, while Ailsa was a primary school teacher.

Their main income is from pensions - both state and work-related - with some extra cash from savings.

'Get rid of this nonsense'

The Boysons therefore have a strong message for Gordon Brown regarding the state pension, which they regard as inadequate on its own. They want him to increase it by about 3% above the rate of inflation until it gets back in real terms to the level it was in the early 1980s when pensions were linked to average incomes rather than the inflation rate.

To compensate for the extra expenditure, they suggest some means-testing of this higher state pension. This would mean greatest benefit for the less well-off pensioners, even though it would not be so good for them personally.

Also on the topic of older people, Mr and Mrs Boyson want the chancellor to improve state provision for old people's homes and domestic care. They want "none of this nonsense" under which elderly people have to sell their houses to pay for their care.

Balance of taxation 'wrong'

The Boysons feel that they pay about the right amount of tax themselves, considering their circumstances, but feel that the balance between direct and indirect taxation is wrong. They therefore want Mr Brown to reduce VAT and compensate by raising income tax.

They argue that 'Pay As You Earn' is "one of the fairest forms of taxation there is" and that shifting the burden of tax away from the high street would encourage spending, thereby stimulating production and reducing unemployment.

In addition, Mr and Mrs Boyson suggest that the higher rate of taxation should be increased to at least 50% on incomes over 60,000.

Similarly, there should be a very high rate of taxation on golden handshakes and the type of share options enjoyed by the fat cats of industry. And as well as clamping down on tax dodgers in general, they want the chancellor to close all offshore tax havens.

Ring-fencing expenditure

When it comes to how the government spends its revenue, the Boysons would like to see Mr Brown introduce a greater link between taxes raised and what the government does with it.

They point to the example of how the Liberal Democrats at the 1997 general election proposed an extra 1p on income tax, to be spent exclusively on education. They would like to see this extended so that all major government departments had their spending ring-fenced and linked to published tax rates. The public would then know, for example, that 8p in the pound of their taxes was being spent on the health service and could not be taken away to fund road building.

On the subject of transport, Mr and Mrs Boyson would like to see some of the tax burden currently borne by the road tax shifted onto higher petrol duty. In addition, the road tax should be graduated according to engine size. Overall, however, they would tell the chancellor that taxes from motoring are about the right level.

Student fees 'discriminate against the poor'

As former teachers themselves, it is not surprising that the Boysons are angry at the imposition of tuition fees in higher education and want Mr Brown to find the cash to reverse this policy.

They feel that "no-one should be inhibited, or barred, from attending university" because of fees, which they argue depend not so much on the student as their parents - which discriminates against students from poorer backgrounds.

Mr and Mrs Boyson have one further point of principle on which to advise Mr Brown - join the euro. This comes not from some deep europhile conviction - indeed they say there should be proper safeguards for British sovereignty - but their view is that the UK "can't afford not to be in".

There is also their personal experience of holidaying abroad. They really would appreciate it if the hassle of having to keep changing currencies was finally done away with.

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