Election-watch: pensions, pensioners and politics

Politicians worry about pensioners. One major reason why was highlighted in a report from a House of Commons committeee in late 2014 on voter turnout in the 2010 election. The report estimated that 44% of people aged 18-24 voted, overall turnout was 65.1%, but 75% of those aged over 55 voted. On those figures, it is surprising that the Conservatives’ 2017 pension proposals were less generous than previously:

  • The triple lock for basic and new state pension increases would continue to 2020 and then be replaced by a double lock, removing the current 2.5% floor.
  • Winter fuel payments would be means-tested, although how was not detailed. All other pensioner benefits would be maintained “for the duration of this parliament”.
  • On social care in England, the manifesto proposed four reforms:
  1. To raise the upper capital limit for a full contribution to costs to £100,000 (no comment was made about the £14,250 lower limit).
  2. To include the value of the home when means-testing for in-home care.
  3. To allow payments for in-home care to be deferred until death.
  4. To drop the £72,000 Dilnot cap on total personal contributions, “which mostly benefited a small number of wealthier people”. However, four days after the manifesto’s publication, an unspecified cap was back on the agenda.

Labour was more generous in its manifesto plans:

  • The triple lock would be guaranteed “throughout the next Parliament”.
  • Winter fuel payment and free bus passes would be “guaranteed as universal benefits”.
  • Pension Credit would be extended to women caught by state pension age (SPA) changes and “further transitional options” would be explored.
  • A(nother) commission would be established to review SPA rises beyond 66.
  • On social care, there would be an unspecified maximum on personal contribution and an (unspecified) capital limit increase. Options for funding include “wealth taxes, an employer care contribution or a new social care levy.

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto plans sit between the Conservatives and Labour:

  • The triple lock would remain “for the next parliament”.
  • The Winter Fuel Payment would be withdrawn from higher rate taxpayers, a move worth only about £100 million a year. Bus passes would survive.
  • The party would “finish the job of implementing a cap on the cost of social care”.

In practice, maintaining the pension triple lock will not cost much for the next few years because of higher inflation. As for the other ideas, suffice to say there seems to be a convenient lack of detail…

 

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