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Politics Matters By David Stewart: Will future of state pensions add up to a headache? Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the UK Government are facing a major problem in the autumn

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David Stewart.
David Stewart.

The UK government are facing a major headache in the autumn – to either deliver or water down an election manifesto commitment on state pensions.

First a health warning: pensions are fiendishly complex and will bring a sweat to the brow of even the most switched on Highland maths teacher.

The Tory/Lib Dem coalition government brought in a triple lock for the state pension. This meant that each year, the pension would rise by either 2.5 per cent, the rate of inflation or average earnings – whichever was the largest.

So far, so good. This was a positive move and state pensioners saw some growth in their income. This was badly needed for many pensioners who had no other source of income.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Comparisons with the state pensions of other European nations is difficult to do. However, the House of Commons library on April 9 this year said: “A comparison of state pension alone shows the UK providing a lower level of pension than most other advanced economies relative to average earnings.”

There has also been, in my view, a major historic injustice brought against women born in the 1950s.

The WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) group brought the largest ever case to the Ombudsman – of
3.8 million women. Many of the women in this category had part-time work, low pay or looked after elderly parents. All factors which have a high impact on the ability to build up a pension pot.

They want a review of the state pensions scheme. I agree with them. So what will the Chancellor do in the autumn? My guess is he will take earnings out of the calculation – turning the triple lock into a double lock.

Why will that matter? It will reduce the uprating of the state pension to a lower percentage and save the Treasury a mint.

The Chancellor may think he is very clever but I would guess my ex-constituents who are pensioners may take a different view.

n Had a spot of staycation last weekend – an excellent stay in a swell hotel near Dunvegan.

The only low spot was driving the few miles from the magnificent Dunvegan Castle along the single-track road to Coral Beach.

A combination of blind corners, cars parked in passing places and the greatest single collection of massive pot holes made it a nightmare journey.

Wiser readers would have left the car at the castle and walked or cycled.

To add insult to injury, once we reached the Coral Beach, we could not park and had to go straight back to the hotel! I wonder if our roads will improve with two new Green ministers in government?

• How is your broadband speed? This is the new ice-breaker at Highland social events these days.

The fibre-optic cabling being done across Inverness and Nairn is beginning to pay off. I took the plunge a few months ago and went from pitiful speed to impress-your-neighbours speed!

Now I can play Football Manager 2021 to my heart’s content.

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