HUNDREDS of pensioners from all parts of Britain descended on Westminster on Wednesday 22nd October to demand a serious increase in the basic state pension rate and the restoration of the link with average earnings.
The mass lobby of Parliament was organised by the National Pensioners’ Convention and 15 separate trade unions and marked the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the old age pension.
The protesters say the current promised increase due next April, from £90.70 by £4.55 a week for a single pensioner and from £145.05 by £7.25 a week for a pensioner couple, is not enough.
The lobby comes at a time when, for the second time in a decade, hundreds of billions have been wiped off the value of private and occupational pensions, leaving those who had been prudently saving for a comfortable old age dependent on the pittance of the basic state pension.
Pensioner poverty has risen in the last year by 300,000, taking the total to 2.5 million older people living on less than 60 per cent of median population income before housing costs, the same number as 10 years ago.
NPC general secretary Joe Harris said the statistics were a “national disgrace”.
“For decades, the policy of successive governments has been to rely on means-tested benefits for existing pensioners and good occupational pension schemes for future generations, as a way of avoiding paying a decent state pension,” he said. “The Government should use the huge £46 billion surplus in the National Insurance Fund and give everyone a pension that takes them out of poverty. It’s not acceptable that there’s billions for bankers, but peanuts for pensioners.”
George Henderson, general secretary of the Scottish Pensioners’ Association, said: “At a time like this, pensioners will be disgusted that bankers are being offered up to £500 billion, while our members will get less than a £5 increase in their pension next year.
“Every week more and more of our 2.5 million pensioners are facing rising food and fuel prices. Pensioners face inflation rate that is twice the official figures because older people spend a higher proportion of their income on those items with the fastest rising prices.
“Pensioners need to see a substantial increase now to help them cope with the current financial crisis.”
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber added that the introduction of the state pension 100 years ago remained “a key achievement” but its value had been diminished by the Conservatives’ decision to end the link with earnings.
The protest day began with a demonstration in Parliament Square at 11am, with some lobbyers in Victorian costume, followed by a rally and a parliamentary lobby in Westminster Hall and the Central Lobby.