Are the conservatives really the party of pensioners?

The Conservatives are due to talk this morning about how they can justify their claim that they are the party for pensioners. Look forward to promises to;

  • Maintain the triple lock
  • Increase the pensioners tax-free allowance from £6000 to £8000
  • Protect people’s assets (houses) from the costs of long-term care
  • Give those in later years the freedom to spend their pension savings as they like.

It’s well known that pensioners are valuable to politicians, they get out and vote. They are also particularly vulnerable to Government decisions on spending – on the taxation of savings and the granting of welfare.

The Conservative’s manifesto pledges for welfare spending show that relative to rival parties and in absolute terms, the Government will be spending less on welfare. While they are not explicit about which parts of the welfare budget is protected, it looks to me that the Conservatives will focus on protecting pensioners with income and assets at the expense of pensioners without income and assets.

So it would be fairer to say that the conservatives will be the party for affluent voting pensioners.

One of the reasons that voters are getting so angry with politicians this election, is that the promises are made in terms of the winners, they do not mention the losers. As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, there are some big losers in upcoming changes.

The £30bn cut (identified by the IFS) in unprotected departmental spending, not mentioned in the Conservative manifesto, could leave departments like the DWP 30% worse off than in 2010. That £30bn is on top of the £10bn cut in social security that is in the manifesto.

The only rabbit that can be pulled out of the hat is to clobber tax cheats who hide income offshore. The Conservatives promise to get £5bn back over the next term is a tired old rabbit and not one Tory HQ will be shouting about to their sponsors ( who tend to have lots of funds but don’t pay much tax).

So I’m very sceptical about the fate of the less well-off pensioners

Because we have economic data from sources such as the OBR, think-tanks like the IFS are able to  pour cold water over these conservative promises.  If the Conservatives are planning to reduce cuts in the next parliament by £26bn more than Labour, pain is going to be endured as much as explicit promises on tax.

The rhetoric doesn’t match the numbers. Nowhere is this more worrying than for those vulnerable to long-term care. Let’s be clear, the NHS is of help to those with acute medical issues (for those in old age that means the threat of death), but it is not in the business of providing long term support to those physically and mentally infirm. The money for this benefit, comes from an unprotected department, the DWP.

So the protection of the NHS, simply puts more pressure on long-term care.

If you make an explicit promise to protect people’s assets (houses) from being effectively repossessed to pay the long-term care bills…

and you give people the freedom to spend their pension savings up front….

and you demand a 30% cut in the DWP budget which is there to provide a safety net…

and you rule out filling in the resulting budget gap with new taxes (see the Conservative promise made this week – “read my lips – no new taxes”)

and you cap the value of pension savings at £1m tipping many long-living affluent pensioners into the poverty trap…

Then you can only draw one conclusion. For the most vulnerable pensioners- those in poverty of heading for it, the Conservatives are not the party of pensioners…

For the poorer pensioners, the Conservatives are the party of pensioner irresponsibility.

The pension poor will be the victims of austerity, spending cuts and depravation.

But they’ll only have themselves to blame- they’re not the pensioners who vote.

The conservatives are the party for the pensioners who vote

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