Magazine article The Spectator

Bullying the Elderly

Magazine article The Spectator

Bullying the Elderly

Article excerpt

Labour delegates left Brighton this week with the clear impression that their leader will depart some time in the next four years, and possibly sooner, to begin his long-awaited retirement. Mr Blair will launch himself at the annual beanos of American corporations. His speeches, doubtless on themes such as 'Me and Dubya' or the 'Special Relationship', will earn him millions, and no one will begrudge him his loot, least of all Gordon Brown. It might be worth remembering, though, that ordinary pensioners have not done as well under this government, and that for them the outlook is grim. The most telling figures on pensioner poverty produced this week did not come from the Chancellor but from 73-year-old Sylvia Hardy, jailed for a week for refusing to pay £53.71 of her council tax bill. Miss Hardy had not refused to pay her council tax fullstop. She has willingly been paying Exeter City Council £55 a month, a sum she calculates would have been the bill due on her flat had her council tax, like her pension, increased in line with the government's inflation index over the past four years. What she refuses to pay is the extra £16 a month by which her council tax bill has risen over and above the rate of inflation. Since 2001 her council tax bill has risen 38 per cent but her pension, which is supposed to be linked to the cost of living, by just 6.8 per cent.

Millions of pensioners, like Miss Hardy, are already handing more than one sixth of their state pension straight back to the public purse. Their lives are becoming impossible.

Mr Brown's response to the plight of pensioners weighed down by council tax bills is sadly typical of the man. Scared by the effect that sharp increases in council tax were having on the government's then preferred measure of inflation, the Retail Prices Index, he conceived a new measure, the Consumer Prices Index, which conveniently excludes council tax and indeed all housing costs.

When Mr Brown boasts of low inflation, as he regularly does, he is talking about the price of luxuries such as iPods and DVD players, but not the cost of putting a roof over one's head. For pensioners who have no interest in an iPod but face mounting bills on their homes, the Brown years have been anything but an era of low inflation. For them, life under New Labour is not so very different from life under the Labour government of the 1970s, when those on fixed incomes saw their living standards eroded at an alarming rate.

Gordon Brown claims to have compensated for pensioners' hardships by introducing a benefit called Pension Credit, which in theory tops up the state pension to guarantee all single pensioners an income of £105. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.