Pensioners: Don't let us rot in poverty

JON WELCH Pensioners took their battle for a fair deal to Parliament yesterday, calling for an immediate rise in state pensions and demanding that they not be left “to rot in poverty”.

JON WELCH

Pensioners took their battle for a fair deal to Parliament yesterday, calling for an immediate rise in state pensions and demanding that they not be left “to rot in poverty”.

A thousand pensioners, including an East Anglia contingent, took part in the protest, some dressed as skeletons to underline the fact that an estimated three million pensioners will die before 2012, when the government plans to reintroduce the link between pensions and average earnings.

Cliff Horne, of Mildenhall, chairman of the Eastern Region North Pensioners Association, was among the protesters.

“Six years is just too long to wait,” he said.

“Millions will have passed away by then. We want a decent increase in the basic state pension now.”

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The basic state pension currently stands at £84.25, which equates to just 16 per cent of average earnings. The National Pensioners Convention, which organised the protest, wants it increased to £114.

It says more than 2.5 million pensioners, most of them women, currently live below the official poverty line with millions more just above it, struggling to pay increased council tax and fuel bills.

The organisation says the money to increase state pensions already exists within the National Insurance Fund, which has a surplus of £34.6 billion and is set to rise to about £60 billion by 2010.

Joe Harris, NPC general secretary, said: “Britain has the fourth strongest economy in the world and the balance in the National Insurance Fund is now so large that it would pay for every pensioner to have a pension of at least £114 a week for a number of years.

“The question, therefore, is not whether the country can afford to provide a decent state pension for everyone, but whether MPs have the political will to do the decent thing. It's our job to convince them they must.”