I suspect that the two groups who will suffer most from the shambles of Westminster’s economic “plan” are our Senior Citizens and the organisation on which many of them depend; local Councils.
In the Autumn Statement, Phillip Hammond made it perfectly clear that the much vaunted triple lock on pensions was going to be “reviewed”. As an aside, why is it that so many tories are so mealy mouthed? There will be no “review”, the triple lock, like so many other solemn commitments, is dead.
The history of the last few months tells us all we need to know about tory consistency.
On 31 July 2016, the BBC web site carried this;
“There are no plans to end the current pensions guarantee, the government says, after a call to abolish it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36937107
Introduced in 2012, the “triple-lock” policy has meant state pensions rise by the inflation rate, average earnings or 2.5% – whichever is highest.
By the time November 23 had rolled around the tone was radically different; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3966790/Triple-lock-state-pension-axed-Chancellor-orders-review-guarantee-costs.html
Here we learned that not only is the triple lock under threat but “Philip Hammond told MPs he would be compiling a major report into the impact that state spending on pensioners has on the health and social care of an ageing population. The Treasury later confirmed that the review would look at whether the triple lock is affordable. It could also consider whether wealthier pensioners should continue to benefit from handouts such as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes.” (My emboldening)
By the end of that week we had moved on to “David Cameron’s triple-lock guarantee to pensioners has “served its purpose” and should be scrapped or at least modified, Tory MP Stephen Crabb has said.” http://news.sky.com/video/triple-lock-pensions-under-threat-10673473
Now the cynical amongst us, and yes I know you are not one, might ask Just what purpose has been served? Are our pensioners, who’s ranks I joined in July, now living a life of riches and plenty? Have we ended the terrible dilemma of eat or heat for our old folk?
No, of course we have not but still the Tories are telling one truth, the only purpose of the “triple lock” was electoral. It worked for them on two out of the three times they used it.
It was a part of the horrendous campaign to scare older folk in 2014 into voting NO on utterly unfounded scare stories they would not get their pensions after Independence. I well remember my Mum meeting one old lady who had been stockpiling tins of food in case we voted YES because she had been terrified by Project Fear.
Secondly it worked to fend off the ukip attack in the 2015 General Election and was a major commitment in the Tory manifesto. (Manifesto; Noun, a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.)
Of course the third time they tried to use it was in the Brexit referendum;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36509931?pt=BureoF3GVB?date20120727?date20120824 Here we are told “David Cameron has said the government might not be able to protect spending on pensions, the NHS and defence in the long term if the UK leaves the EU.
The prime minister said Brexit could cause a “black hole” in the public finances and threaten the “triple lock” guaranteeing state pension increases.
He told Andrew Marr “our economy would be smaller” if the UK left the single market leading to “difficult choices”.
Vote Leave said it was “a frantic attempt to rescue a failing campaign”.
How ironic that the only time he told the truth he was not believed.
The second area where old folk face real problems lies with the harsh and inevitable cuts which Council’s across Scotland as well as the rUK, are about to enact in their budgets.
These cuts will hit old folk disproportionately hard in both direct services and also through the withdrawal of indirect service where Councils fund volunteer groups to help those most in need.
In my own Council of Falkirk we are facing up to a £25 million fall in our grant from the Scottish Government. Ok we have the “privilege” of increasing the Council Tax which might bring in an extra £2million, the balance will have to be found from reducing the quality and range of services we provide across our Community. Among the cuts our Labour /Tory /Independent Administration are proposing is one to privatise, or close, the Community Halls across the district. Many of these are the only community facility in their villages and the loss of them will hit all ages, from the Old Folks who have their lunch clubs and socials there to the Mother and Toddlers groups to the Scouts, Guides and many other groups who use them. For many an old person this will mean an even greater isolation and as they miss out on a source of contact as much as a hot meal.
The price for that vote on Black Thursday is becoming higher with every passing year and the need to achieve Independence is moving from being a “nice to have” to an absolute essential. Meanwhile the burden of cutting essential services will fall on our Councilors in Local Government. The next five years will be hard indeed as the Tories refuse to reverse their insane Austerity agenda and the economic and political uncertainty of brexit makes financial planning virtually impossible.
COSLA, the local Government body are considering asking the Government to fund a leaflet explaining why these cuts are being made to their budgets. The problem is that they are asking the Scottish Government why? The question should be asked of the people who are imposing the cuts in the first place and that of course means the UK Government.
Sadly COSLAs leadership is composed of party hacks who will cut off their own careers in May rather than spite their political masters. They cannot and will not admit that as long as Scotland remains thirled to a failing UK economy with a failing UK political system these cuts will continue year after year after year.