Portsmouth campaigners hit out at 'disappointing' proposal to hike state pension age to 75 by 2035

BRITAIN’S state pension age is currently on the rise from 65 to 66 and there are plans to increase it to 68 by the mid 2040s.

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 5:36 pm
Updated Friday, 30th August 2019, 12:13 pm
Members of the Solent Waspi group

But the older generation is now facing another potential hike – one much sooner that could be more than double those happening now.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has recommended the government raise the state pension age to 75 by 2035 to help boost the economy.

In its new Ageing Confidently report, the think tank founded by Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith said amending the threshold would reflect falling mortality and birth rates and unlock the economic potential of the nation’s ageing population.

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Stephen Morgan MP. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (060619-20)

Government research has predicted half of all UK adults will be over the age of 50 by the mid 2030s and the report says 3.3million people aged 50 to 64 are currently ‘economically inactive’.

‘The Spa [state pension age] should better reflect the longer life expectancies that we now enjoy and be used to support the fiscal balance of the nation,’ the CSJ says in its recommendation.

‘The Spa in the UK is set to rise to 66 by 2020 (Pensions Act 2011), to 67 between 2026 and 2028 (State Pension Act 2014) and to 68 between 2044 and 2046 (State Pension Act 2007).

‘We propose accelerating the Spa increase to 70 by 2028 and then 75 by 2035.

Steve Bonner, chairman of Portsmouth Pensioners Association. Picture: Sarah Standing (210619-1378)

‘This will ensure the [old age dependency ratio] remains in the range of 20 to 25 for the next 20 years and would significantly improve the country’s projected fiscal position.’

Though the suggested rise is only a proposal and should not be confused with legitimate government policy, it comes from the same think tank that set out the blueprint for Universal Credit in 2009.

The benefit system was given the Royal Assent in 2012, has since been rolled out across the nation and arrived in Portsmouth in March, 2018.

Steve Bonner, chairman of the Pompey Pensioners, said working to 75 in his previous shipbuilding and coach-building jobs would have been untenable.

‘This suggested increase is something we will be campaigning against,’ he said.

‘The majority of people probably wouldn’t survive until 75 in work – especially if they they work in a physical job.

‘It might be possible for someone in an office where there is not much stress, but it is not favourable.’

He added: ‘Raising the state pension age to 75 could also lead to a struggle for younger people to find jobs and I think it’s trying to fuel a non-existent war between young and old.’

In its report the CSJ said the proposal to raise the threshold should only be adopted if necessary ‘apparatus’ to support it can be put in place.

This includes better occupational healthcare, training in mental health first aid and further support for over-55s from the government’s Work and Health Programme.

It also suggests work should be made more flexible and ‘tailored mid-life MOTs’ should be rolled out for employees across the nation.

‘While this might seem contrary to a long-standing compassionate attitude to an older generation that have paid their way in the world and deserve to be looked after, we do not believe it should be,’ the CSJ said.

‘Working longer has the potential to improve health and wellbeing, increase retirement savings and ensure the full functioning of public services for all.’

The body said individuals, businesses and the economy ‘will suffer’ without a ‘concerted effort’ to help older people get the ‘benefits of work’.

But the proposals have been branded ‘disappointing’ by the Solent Waspi group, which campaigns against state pension inequality.

‘There are 3.8million Waspi women – around 116,000 in Hampshire – who have already experienced the devastating effects of increases to their Spa from changes as a result of the 1995 and 2011 State Pension Acts,’ said Solent Waspi coordinator, Shelagh Simmons.

‘They received little or no notice of the changes and had no time to prepare which shattered their retirement plans.

‘In 2017 the independent Cridland Report recommended that 10 years’ notice should be given for forthcoming rises, and that it should not increase more than one year in any ten year period.

‘We hope the government has learned its lesson from the shocking impact of previous changes on Waspi women’s lives and does not accept these proposals.’

According to the Office for National Statistics’ latest localised average life expectancy figures, men in Portsmouth would have three-and-half years’ retirement to enjoy the spoils of their pension pot if the state pension age was raised to 75.

Meanwhile, the life expectancy for women in the city currently sits four years higher, at 82.7.

The Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said the hike would ‘decimate the plans and dreams of thousands of people across the nation’ at a time when scores already face losing their free television licences.

‘The notion that state pension age should be raised to boost our economy, suggested by the inaptly named Conservative think tank the Centre for Social Justice is both morally repugnant and an insult to the generation to whom we all owe so much,’ he said.

‘The fact the Ian Duncan Smith, who co-founded the think tank, backed the current prime minister’s leadership bid and served as his campaign chairman is something we should be particularly wary of.

‘We have already seen the Conservatives flagrantly disregard a manifesto pledge to safeguard benefits for pensioners with the TV licence, we cannot tolerate another attack on older people in our communities.’

To access the Ageing Confidently report, go online and visit tinyurl.com/y2rao4bn