The Prime Minister said the challenges pensioners face are “always” at the “forefront of my mind” as the finishing touches are put to Thursday’s budget. More than 325,000 people have shown their fury at the threat to the guarantee of a decent rise in state pensions by backing our crusade calling on the government to stick to its manifesto promise.
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Mr Sunak has so far refused to guarantee the 10.1 per cent rise in state pensions that would be given under the funding formula despite previous pledges that it would go ahead.
But he insisted last night that the public will see that “fairness and compassion” are behind all the decisions made in the upcoming autumn statement despite warnings of painful tax hikes and spending cuts to fill the £50 billion blackhole in the nation’s finances.
The Prime Minister, speaking as he travelled to Bali for the G20 summit, said: “My track record as Chancellor shows I care very much about those pensioners, particularly when it comes to things like energy and heating because they are especially vulnerable to cold weather.
“That’s why when I announced support earlier this year as Chancellor we made extra provision for pensioners to receive up to £300 alongside their winter fuel payments to help them cope with energy bills over the winter.
“So I am someone who understands the particular challenge of pensioners. They will always be at the forefront of my mind.
“Conservative governments have got a good track record of protecting pensioners and, in fact, the state pension today is about £700 higher than it otherwise would be as a result of the triple lock.
“I can’t comment on any decisions, and it’s not about the triple lock it’s about anything, days before a financial statement.
“But, as I said, we will put fairness and compassion at the heart of all the decisions we make and I am confident people will see that next Thursday.”
When it was pointed out that the triple lock should mean state pension rises are guaranteed regardless of the economic situation, he replied: “I can’t comment on any specific policy four or five days before the financial statement but fairness and compassion will be at the heart of everything we do.”
The triple lock links state pension increases to the highest of 2.5 per cent, wages rises or inflation.
Inflation hit 10.1 per cent in September, the month traditionally used to work out next April’s rise.
Support for our petition, organised with campaign group Silver Voices, has been championed by MPs and campaigners.
We have called for the Prime Minister to give pensioners the increase they were promised by the Conservatives at the last election.
The party’s 2019 manifesto stated: “We will keep the triple lock, the winter fuel payment, the older person’s bus pass and other pensioner benefits, ensuring that older people have the security and dignity they deserve.”
Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices, said: “We are not counting our chickens until the Chancellor announces in Parliament that the triple lock has been saved, but this strong hint will be encouraging for millions of pensioners who will be struggling to survive the winter months ahead.
“I am sure the Prime Minister has taken note of the huge public support for this vital safety net for older people, evidenced through the 325,000 people who have signed the Express/Silver Voices petition.
“He will also be aware of the cross-party support for the triple lock from MPs, and conscious that a promise was made to Parliament that the Lock would be restored this year.
“Even at this late stage we would urge him to bring forward the increase from next April, so that it can be used for the heating that needs to be switched on now.”
Mr Sunak suspended the lock last year after a quirk caused by the covid crisis meant average earnings shot up. Instead, the state pension went up by 3.1 per cent.
At the time, the then Chancellor insisted the move was temporary and would last one year only.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “At Age UK we’ve got everything crossed for Thursday and fervently hope the Prime Minister and Chancellor will restore the triple lock and raise benefits in line with inflation at the Autumn Statement.
“The price rises we’re seeing, to energy above all, are incredibly frightening for older people, and knowing there was some relief coming in the spring would make a huge difference.
“In many cases it could persuade them to run their central heating this winter when otherwise they’ll try too hard to manage without it, at major risk to their health.”
Lord Foulkes, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Older People, said it would be a welcome victory for the campaign to maintain the triple lock if the PM does protect it.
He added: “However we will still be vigilant to make sure it is honoured and maintained in the years ahead.”
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