Friday, May 29, 2009

Demand serious action on pensions!

By Renee Sams

THE BROWN government has at last increased the basic pension, which has now crept up to the grand sum of £95.25 a week. This means that at least one in four pensioners still lives below the official poverty line.
Millions of pensioners will have to rely on the means-tested benefits, an unpopular, demeaning and costly way of keeping retired people in the poverty trap.
Those who were relying on occupational pensions to provide them with a decent pension are facing a future without a pension as they are closed down. The funds lost £billions when the stock markets went into free fall and now are unable to pay out.
A large number of pensioners also invested their savings in expectation of a good return but the lowering on the Bank of England interest rate to 0.5 per cent has put paid to a lot of hopes.
There are people however who have no worries about their lives in retirement; one of them is bank boss Sir Fred Goodwin, who received his knighthood for services to banking and was the architect of the RBS loss of £24.1 billion.
The bank was only saved by a multi-billion pound bail out by the Government with, of course, the taxpayers’ money.
He won’t be joining in the pensioners’ demand for at least a pension at the official poverty level of £151 per week.
His pension of £693,000, funded by the taxpayers, which is a staggering £13,000 a week, will ensure that he can live a life of luxury and enjoyment for the rest of his life.
Taxpayers’ money also came in handy to save the banks facing collapse caused by the reckless gambling of bankers greedy for ever higher bonuses.
The Government pumped in almost £1,200 billion of our money to save the banking system which will cost us dearly in public spending cuts and is prepared to stand by with more money if more banks are in danger of collapse.
Some members of Parliament, once elected, were seduced by ambition and greed and found that a life of luxury could be funded by the lax system of expenses they were allowed.
They made use of the system to pay off mortgages on their second homes but apparently absentmindedly let the loan payments carry on after the mortgage was paid up.
Since the pensioners’ lobby of Parliament on 22nd October 2008 two important Bills have become law, the Pension Reform Bill and the Welfare Reform Bill.
Despite a large number of pensioners, including some trades unionists, calling on their MPs to oppose the Bill it was passed with members of all three parties voting for it.
The word “reform” is one of the most used and abused words in the English language, particularly by health service consultants, senior managers and politicians.
Originally the word was meant to “improve” but in the mouths of ministers and politicians it has come to mean the privatisation and the break up of once public organisations. The results have been continually worsening services and ever rising costs.
Working people showed their discontent with the situation that is making thousands worse off, with demonstrations in the City, centre of banking and finance, Docklands, Trafalgar Square, and towns all over the country on 1st April.
Thousands of people demonstrated on a variety of issues including, peace, for better pensions, for justice and democracy, jobs, food and healthcare before private gain.
Many pensioners were active on that day across the country in a number of towns; precisely at 11 am pensioners’ organisations and action groups voiced their anger at receiving a pension well below the official poverty level.
They will have a chance to express their anger again at the Pensioners’ Parliament organised by the National Pensioners’ Convention.
It is even more important this year because the Government is about to establish a new forum to be called the UK Forum on Ageing and the second reason for its importance is that at it centre is health and social care.
Introducing it in the House of Commons, Minister Rosie Winterton said: “This will bring together representative views of older people at a national level, and will build links with forums in the devolved nations, the English regions and at local level.”
She explained that “the Government will set up a new structure with a designated regional co-ordinator for older people’s engagement in each English region” and “This will build on existing arrangements for older people and address weaknesses in the current structure.”
Sceptical pensioners feel that this may turn out to be another example of pensioners being told what is best for them and who best represents them. If it is, then it will need mass protests and demonstration of the kind that took place in April but on a far larger scale.
The National Pensioners’ Parliament will be held on 2nd -4th June in Blackpool.