That is the warning pensioners are sending to Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer today as the country begins its slow march towards a general election sometime next year.
The broadside follows the Prime Minister’s refusal to promise to protect the triple lock if he wins the next election.
Speaking after attending the G20 Summit in Delhi, India, last weekend, Sunak said it was too early to “speculate on the election manifesto now”, adding: “I have a lot to deal with between now and then.” .
Although he said the triple lockdown had been a “long-standing policy for us”, he gave no indication that it was here to stay, raising fears that it might not be long for this world.
Starmer has not yet made a similar promise, although a spokesman for him said he remains “committed to it.”
Promise: The triple lock means the state pension will rise each year by a greater proportion of average earnings growth, inflation (in the year to September) or 2.5%.
The triple lock was introduced 13 years ago by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat government led by David Cameron.
This means that the state pension increases in April each year by the greater of average earnings growth (between May and July year-on-year), inflation (in the year to September) or 2.5 per cent.
In April this year, it was increased by 10.1 per cent, resulting in new retirees receiving a maximum weekly state pension of £203.85, while those who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 they received a maximum of £156.20.
In April next year, the annual increase will likely be 8.5 per cent, as a result of yesterday’s earnings figures which showed wage growth continuing to outpace inflation (6.8 per cent). This would take the respective weekly pensions to £221.20 and £169.45.
Influential economic study centers are already warning about the impact of the triple blockade on the Government’s finances. This year, the total bill for paying the state pension to 12.6 million people is expected to rise to £124 billion. Next year, it will rise to £135 billion.
But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warns that maintaining the triple lock for too long will increase state pension spending so significantly that it will produce “insurmountable pressure for a much higher state pension age”. Currently, the age is 66 years and is scheduled to increase to 67 years between 2027 and 2028, and then again.
On Monday, former Conservative leader Lord Hague weighed in on the debate, claiming (for the second time this year) that the triple lock was unaffordable and akin to a runaway train. This angered many party supporters.
Terry and Mary Sheehan are staunch Conservatives but say if Sunak doesn’t commit to the triple lock before the election they won’t vote for them. The Sheehans, from Bourne, Lincolnshire, receive the state pension.
Terry, a 68-year-old former insurance company claims manager, doesn’t mince words.
“The triple lock should not be tampered with in any way,” he says. “It seems a bit rich that in April last year pensioners had to move on when the Government said it couldn’t afford the 9 per cent rise we should have got under the triple lock.
Instead, they gave us 3.1 percent. Now, given this year’s decent rise (and next year’s healthy rise), the cost of the triple lock is being questioned by everyone except the pensioners who rely on it to cover rising household bills.
Terry says the Government would do well to listen to retirees. “Rishi should invite a handful of retirees to a brainstorming session at 10 Downing Street,” he says.
“They would soon tell you that the Government’s treatment of pensioners is all over the place.
‘On the one hand, it is accessed through the triple closure. On the other hand, freezing personal benefits and forcing more pensioners to pay income tax.’
Warning: In an outburst that angered many party supporters, former Conservative leader Lord Hague (pictured) said the triple lock was unaffordable and akin to a runaway train.
Mary, who at 66 has just become eligible for the state pension after a long career as a headteacher’s personal assistant, says: ‘I have worked since I was 18. I have earned my right to the state pension.
For most of my working life, I thought I’d get it starting at age 60, but it kept going back and forth until I was 66. I’m doing well financially, but a lot of my friends aren’t.
‘Enough is enough. If the triple lock is removed, I will not cast my vote in the next Conservative general election.’ Like the Sheehans, Jacqui Chambers, 76, from Ipswich in Suffolk, says pulling the plug on the triple lock would be disastrous for both main parties ahead of the next election.
Jacqui and her husband Chris receive the lowest basic state pension because they were both entitled to it before 2016.
She says: ‘I have friends who, like us, are worried about losing the triple lock. It would be foolish for the Conservatives or Labor to breach it.
‘We both paid our National Insurance contributions throughout our working lives: I was a personal assistant and Chris was a grain inspector at various ports.
‘Surely our reward for that hard work should be a decent state pension. We are part of the backbone of the country and we must take care of pensioners. Much government money is wasted on other questionable causes.
Vincent Jackson, from Walsall in the West Midlands, believes it is imperative to protect the triple lock. “This country’s army of pensioners deserves a decent state pension,” he says.
Vincent, now 70, relies on the state pension to make household finances work for him and his wife Patricia.
He worked hard throughout his career, doing numerous labor-intensive jobs, such as working at a power plant cleaning furnaces and being a supervisor for a toxic waste company.
However, it managed to accumulate few private pensions along the way, and one employer left its pension fund in such poor financial health that it defaulted on the pensions it had promised to give workers.
“What I find difficult to accept,” says Vincent, “is that the country can always find money to pay parliamentarians and civil servants decent pensions.”
But when it comes to ordinary workers, who have contributed to the success of the economy for many years, there is always talk of state pensions being no longer affordable.
“Let me tell you: you don’t make a living from it, you just survive it.”
IFS figures show the state pension is now equal to a quarter of average earnings, its highest level since 1980. This is mainly due to the rejuvenating impact of the triple lock. But compared to other state pension schemes abroad, it remains among the least generous.
Martin Shaw, a 73-year-old retired postman from Bracknell, Berkshire, says the triple lock would be a “huge vote victory” for any political party that includes it in its election manifesto.
“I am sure that a party that commits to the triple blockade will attract many of the votes among the country’s 12 million pensioners,” he says.
‘I think it is fair that older people in our community benefit from a state pension that allows them to meet the cost of living.
“The state pension is a small price for the taxes we have paid to the Government during our working lives.”
On Monday, Martin wrote to his MP, the Conservative James Sunderland, demanding that the triple lock be maintained.
Carol Moore, from Westerleigh in South Gloucestershire, relies heavily on the state pension to keep her finances going.
In December, Carol, 77, collected her state pension at age 60, but the triple lock only applies to her basic state pension, not payment under the state earnings-related pension scheme (Serps).
The triple lock provides him with a blanket of financial comfort and he says any erosion of it would compromise his lifestyle. But he also believes the state pension age should not continue to rise to maintain the lockdown.
“I was lucky to receive the pension when I was 60,” he says, “but it’s not right that people now wait until they’re 60 before they’re entitled to it.”
Triple lock or without triple lock? It’s a political hot potato.
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