Mervyn Kohler, Age UK’s External Affairs Adviser, looks at what the Budget means for savers, the social care system and our hopelessly energy-inefficient housing stock.
In its tone and delivery, the Budget speech sounded good news for pensioners, and there is much to applaud in the Government’s proposals. But before getting carried away with enthusiasm it’s important to take a cool look at what we mean by ‘pensioners’.
Retired people with savings who have seen desperately poor returns on their investments will welcome the National Savings Pensioner Bond from next January, the simplification of ISAs and their raised savings limits.
Older people coming up to retirement can appreciate the proposed flexibilities around their pension savings, and the increases in the lump sums they are allowed to draw. But they must be careful to strike a balance between the resources they use to spend now, rather than fund their (hopefully) long lives at an appropriate level. Unfortunately these savings can only be used once!
But for older people needing social care today and facing potentially frightening costs, there is little to cheer. The unremitting downward pressure on public expenditure holds out no glimmer of light, and the admirable intentions of the Social Care Bill still seem near impossible to deliver within the proposed budgetary constraints.
Likewise, for older people in fuel poverty, there is no respite. The Budget extends the public support to energy intensive industries by capping the Carbon Floor Price, but this simply reduces the potential income to the Treasury which could and should be spent on a vigorous fuel poverty strategy, and there was no mention of the essential overhaul of our hopelessly energy-inefficient housing stock.
The Chancellor’s commitment to the triple lock on State Pension increases and the exempting of the State Pension from the welfare cap will provide some comfort to poor pensioners. But these are not new benefits, rather the absence of potential losses.
The whisky drinking pensioner who regularly flies long-haul has probably every reason to crack open another bottle. The Chancellor also sketched out more optimistic forecasts for the economy, which should help everybody.
But this was not a give-away Budget for pensioners, though it will probably make pensioners with savings a little happier and provide more options for many, if not all, people as they approach retirement.