Kwarteng insists UK ‘absolutely committed’ to helping pensioners

Kwarteng says UK ‘committed’ to helping pensioners

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Kwasi Kwarteng said he’s “absolutely committed” to keeping the triple lock on state pensions, ensuring payments will be uprated in line with the rate of inflation, currently at 10 percent. As the Chancellor faces calls to scrap elements of his mini-budget over accusations it’s favouring the rich, Mr Kwarteng sought to put Britons at ease in a series of interviews on Thursday. Speaking in Darlington, Mr Kwarteng said he wouldn’t reverse the decision to reinstate the triple lock in April, despite a forthcoming review. But the Chancellor refused to comment on whether or not he would keep to the previous government’s promise of putting benefits up in line with inflation, saying it was too “premature”.

A Sky News reporter asked: “Are you going to keep the previous government’s promise to put benefits up in April by this month’s rate of inflation, which is 10 percent?” 

Mr Kwarteng said: “So, we are talking about helping people in the round. It is premature for me to come to a decision on that but we are absolutely focused on making sure the most vulnerable people in our society are protected through what could be a challenging time.” 

The reporter added: “And the same for pensions, the triple lock, is that guaranteed to go up in accordance with this month’s inflation rate of 10 percent?” 

Mr Kwarteng said: “The Prime Minister has been absolutely committed to the triple lock and we are absolutely committed to maintaining it.” 

Concerns about the triple lock were raised after Treasury minister Chris Philp did not confirm whether benefits will be hiked in line with spiralling inflation.

He had told ITV’s Robert Peston that the matter was under consideration. The triple lock was previously suspended for a year due to unprecedented fluctuations to earnings caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A decision to undo that suspension, effective from April 2023, was made in July.

Under the triple lock guarantee, state pensions are uprated by whichever is highest of 2.5 per cent, wages and inflation.

Inflation is expected to be by far the highest factor this year, potentially putting pensioners in line for an increase of 10 percent or more.

Last year, the triple lock suspension left pensioners receiving a 3.1 percent increase, which aligned with CPI (Consumer Prices Index) inflation at the time. 

Earlier on Thursday, Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said pensioners were “banking on a big increase” in line with inflation next year to manage the cost of living crisis. 

She said: “Many pensioners have been left struggling with their finances as the cost of energy and food has soared and their incomes have been unable to keep up.

“The triple lock was suspended last year as wage data was deemed to have been skewed by the pandemic furlough scheme and pensioners were instead given a 3.1 percent increase which aligned with CPI (Consumer Prices Index) inflation at the time.

“However, it has since soared, and many pensioners were banking on a big increase from next April to help them manage.”

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Regarding increasing benefits in line with inflation, however, the future appears uncertain with charity leaders urging the Government not to u-turn on previous promises. 

James Taylor, director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said: “If the government u-turns on this promise, it would be devastating and lead to disabled people starving and freezing in their own homes.”

He said many disabled people have no choice but to rely on benefits, and have seen real-terms cut after cut.

He continued: “Refusing to increase benefits in line with the true inflation rate would show an utter disdain towards people who need this support.

“The government must stick to its promise to increase benefits in line with inflation, and provide much more direct financial support now to disabled people at the sharp end of this crisis.”

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