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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Time to act over pensions?
Union leaders in the UK have warned the chancellor that Labour could lose the next election if he fails to ensure a generous increase in pensions.
Gordon Brown has promised to give more money to millions of low and middle-income pensioners. But he has rejected calls for an across-the-board rise for retired people.
Campaigners for pensioners' rights say nothing short of a link between earnings and pensions will do. Others warn that as the number of old people in the UK continues to grow, this could prove to be too expensive.
What do you think the government should do? Is it time to change our approach to pensions?
Here's what you had to say:
Ron Austin, USA
It cannot be right that an affluent nation like Britain has one of the lowest pensions in Europe!!
Australian governments have done the same as the UK. The 'saved' money has all been spent. Here compulsory superannuation payments are met by the employer. In the future there will be no 'old aged pension'. Also British pensioners who have joined their children in Australia never get a pension increase.
John Eldon, UK
Things have changed a lot since the idea of a pension was introduced at the start of the century. A working life is at least 45 years rather than at least 50. A retired male will live about 15 years longer than the average when pension schemes were devised. There is no way the relatively trivial contributions to the state pension can be expected to support increasing living standards for the retired. Nor should the state be expected to do this.
We all pay enough Tax and National Insurance for Labour to increase pensions. How can Tony Blair expect pensioners to survive on the pittance they receive, when taxes are being raised, the cost of food and living are ever increasing? I'd like to see him try to survive for a couple of weeks on what he thinks our pensioners should survive on.
It's a nice fantasy that we can
all retire with a good pension
and spend our final days in
comfort. Well forget about it,
those days are over, accept
that. You are responsible for
your own financial future. It's
not nice, but that's the way it is.
I think pensions should be steadily reduced. After all, if we go into Europe our funds will get raided to pay for France and Italy's extravagances so we might as well get used to it now.
The biggest disgrace of consecutive governments is the continuing discrimination between the ages of men and women receiving the state pension. Hopefully the forthcoming European convention on Human Rights will right this wrong.
All of the pensioners who feel let down by this Government should remember one thing; it was the Tories who removed the link between pensions and earnings. If they really believe that pensioners will be better treated by a Conservative Government they must have very, very short memories.
And how many of those clamouring for increased payments to pensioners also support the reduction in fuel taxes? One thing is certain; reduced revenue from fuel taxes will make it much more difficult to fund increased pensions.
Surely all we need to do is stop wasting money on farm subsidies. We are now in a period of near full employment so there are plenty of other jobs. We could then spend the money on something useful like pensions.
I think it would be more efficient and effective to provide everyone a means tested lump sum at birth. The money could be compulsorily invested into health, unemployment and retirement funds. Compound interest and the elimination of vast bureaucracies would
ensure decent income and coverage for all who need it.
If the funds were well managed and directed it could help with Britain's competitiveness. Too radical perhaps?
Amanda, Seattle, USA
The fact that there are more pensioners to fund is balanced by the fact that more people contributed throughout their working lives. Successive governments used these funds for other purposes, in effect embezzling the pension money. If Gordon Brown helps only the poorest pensioners, without tackling the overall problem, there will simply be more of these 'poorest pensioners' year on year.
The fuel payment takes no account of income, is tax free, and is 'per household'. A household frequently contains two pensioners who have BOTH.
Pensioners are not a separate species, and
poor pensioners are simply those who
forgot to save when they were young. Very,
very few of them have been destitute all their
We teach children that if they eat
their candy today, they can't have it
tomorrow. It seems that some have not
learned this basic lesson.
I think that the Government's strategy to target the poorest pensioners is correct although they need to give more help to a broader range of people. No one should be denied the basic amount that they need to live on in decency and security in their old age. Pensions, and indeed child benefit should be means tested so that the money is not wasted on those who don't need it.
David K, England
The proportion of pensioners to those still in employment increases year on year as people live longer and retire earlier. The money has to run out soon and then we may have to re-think the way we work and when we retire. If this had been done years ago then we would not be in the mess we are in now.
National Insurance contributions should be retained, but managed by, say, the Bank of England (as are interest rates). Some things are too important to be left to politicians, especially if they can be turned into a war chest.
Only the most heartless of people would not sympathise with the wretched financial predicament of elderly people who must rely on the state pension. We should do more to improve their situation. However, in the long term we must replace the current underfunded system of National Insurance with a proper funded system with compulsory deductions into personal pension funds from people's pay packets, supplement by an adequate state-funded scheme for those who are too poor to contribute. This is the approach that has been adopted in Australia and is the only feasible means of addressing the demographic pressures of an enlarging, retired population and falling birth-rate.
Why do UK ex-pats have to be penalised by having their pensions frozen at the time they receive them? Most of us have worked hard all our lives and are 'rewarded' by a succession of stingy governments. Also many of us are ex-service men and women. This situation does not apply in the States so why Canada?
Paul R, UK
It's revolting that pensioners who should be enjoying the rewards of their 'twilight years' have to campaign for the right to be able to afford basic food and heating.
I'm a pensioner myself, and I don't see why my age should impact upon my standard of living. I fought in Hitler's war in order that my compatriots could sleep safe in their beds, and now it transpires that one of those compatriots was a childlike Tony Blair, plotting to make my old age miserable. The general election will show how dangerous this ploy is.
The Government's claim to be providing a guaranteed minimum income for pensions is a cruel deception. And if Gordon Brown really believed in prudence why does he penalise pensioners for being prudent? My mother is struggling on the basic £67.50 and cannot get more because her limited savings are means-tested.
Why give them more? They'll only waste it on bingo and stout.
Many pensioners are pointing out that Britain is a very rich country to justify an increase in their pensions. Perhaps they would like to try and find a way of extracting some of that money from the huge financial organisations in this country that hold most of it. Until they do so, the lower-middle class workers who already shoulder the biggest tax burden will continue to suffer. I think it's a real shame the way the demographics have worked out, but I don't see why my generation should pick up the pieces to compensate for the poor financial planning of the older generations.
Two weeks ago it was fuel, last week it was party donations, this week it is pensions. It is evidence that Labour has gone from a party with huge public support and a massive majority to a party that is forced to put out brushfires and face issues as they become a crisis.
Bob Talbot, UK
As a retired man over here in Brazil, I receive half of the amount that I received before I retire. This is a cruel treatment that the authorities give for those who spent all the healthy lives working. Thus, I think UK, as one of the richest past of the world, should not grant their retired people the same fate. And I conclude by saying the most you give for the pensioners to live their few years ahead, isn't enough and can't pay what they did before that.
Perhaps I'm missing something but why do the government want us to eat a healthy diet, take exercise, give up smoking etc and hence live longer if the cannot afford (or won't) give us a pension big enough to survive on? As some one on the news the other day said, what's the point of keeping us alive with expensive medication if we can't afford to live?
Unfortunately many people subscribe to 'always' voting for a political party even if they will be worse off, and really it is time for the pensioners to vote for whoever promises them the best deal. Let the political parties spell it out abundantly clearly in their next manifestos and the best party will be voted in...
Gavin Pearson, USA
The first thing to do is for the government to be honest and to change the name of National Insurance Contributions to Social Security Tax, because that is what it is and always has been. Unless the government actually starts building up reserves that are specifically earmarked for the payment of pensions, unemployment benefit and the health service, it is a scandal to use the word Insurance. If a private sector company had charged individuals "insurance contributions" only to reduce the value of the benefits later on, they would be sued for fraud. The time has come for honesty in taxation, and the first step must be to remove this misleading name.
Well done to Julian Morrison who sets the record straight! The government should show the mathematics of this so the media can portray it to the public to ram the point home. I guess a solution would be to make an immediate plan to phase out these state-funded benefits except for the poorest among us and simultaneously bring in compulsory retirement funding - 5% from age 21 ought to provide a basic income at retirement.
There are many needy groups in this country. Pensioners are just one group of people. We need a closer look at our welfare system, and not jump the gun and dish out money at the expense of other needy people.
Andy Davies, UK
It's my money I was compelled to
put in. It's my money with interest
that I want to take out.
I don't suppose Tony Blair or Gordon Brown will have to survive on a state pension, they should try it sometime and see what 75p extra will buy these days. You pay your contributions and pay your taxes throughout your working life I believe we all have a right to expect to retire in comfort not in poverty. I'm 27 now but by the time I retire they will probably have us put down because we cost too much. We will all be old one day.... Remember that Mr Blair.
The pension is a swindle perpetrated by successive governments on people who thought that their money was being invested, not simply spent. Time for this government to realise that they are not asking for handouts, but for what they have a perfect right to. They would be very foolish to ignore the signs this time.
The Government should be fair to all pensioners, not just those drawing the old age pension.
The Chancellors commitment to increase the minimum pension to ninety pounds is much to be welcomed. This is a sign of a truly caring government and should be seen as such. Further the Labour government should be praised for its innovative approach to carefully targeted benefits such as the Winter heating allowance
Another example of joined up government? Blair and co say they want more people to save for their retirement - they encourage us to do this by taxing our pension funds and targeting state benefit increases to people who didn't save. Could we have a little consistency please?
Have we learned nothing from the oil blockade? The money for this will have to come from somewhere - or more precisely, it will have to be taken - from everyone - as taxes.
Julian Morrison, England
The government SHOULD lose the next election if it listens to unions. How about listening to the people and what they want.
25 Sep 00 | Labour
Unions keep up pensions pressure
25 Sep 00 | Labour
Brown faces pensions anger
21 Sep 00 | UK
Pensioner power: The new old protesters?
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