Pensioners left with ‘anxiety and uncertainty’ after Hunt’s U-turn
Jeremy Hunt outlines changes to measures outlined in mini-budget
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As part of a new strategy to calm the markets, today Mr Hunt announced a reversal of almost all of the tax measures set out in the mini-Budget made by former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. It was also announced the planned two-year energy bill support measure, a flagship policy for Prime Minister Liz Truss, is now only set to last until April 2023.
This has been a cause for worry for older people, many of whom are living on limited incomes and are worried about the affordability of their gas and electricity.
John Palmer, director of policy and communications at Independent Age, expressed his concern about the latest announcement.
He said: “Older people living on low and modest incomes were hoping to be reassured today, but frustratingly the Chancellor’s statement posed more questions than answers.
“Instead of ensuring stability, today only provided uncertainty. The review of the Energy Price Guarantee is extremely concerning. It’s no longer clear who will receive support beyond April 2023.
“Now millions of older people are wondering if they will be abandoned by the Government and left with unaffordable energy bills and freezing homes next year.”
Independent Age has called on the Government to update benefits and the state pension with inflation, describing this as a “non-negotiable measure”.
Mr Palmer added: “Today was another missed opportunity to offer this reassurance.
“Instead, millions of people over 65 will continue to live in fear that they will be made even poorer, when their budgets have been broken by the cost-of-living crisis.”
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Indeed, changes to energy support measures have also been identified as a point of concern by the Centre for Ageing Better.
Dr Carole Easton, chief executive at the non-profit organisation said the previous two-year promise provided a level of uncertainty which has now been pulled.
She explained: “Changing the duration of the energy price guarantee to a much more short-term fix is likely to cause significant anxiety and uncertainty in many homes. We know households with older people are already cutting back more than any other age group on energy with many frightened to use appliances for fear of the costs involved.
“Even when winter has passed, many older people will still have significantly higher energy demands than the average, whether that be from the use of television and radio for social contact, increased time spent in their own home or the use of medical equipment at home.
“It is important the Government ensures that many of these older people are included in those that will be eligible for targeted support beyond April.”
There is also an impact for individuals who are on the cusp of retirement, with the rollback of plans to cut the basic rate of income tax.
Romi Savova, CEO at PensionBee, identified what this could mean for retirement plans, and said: “Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s fiscal statement hopes to deliver confidence and stability for public markets, which is important for all types of pensions.
“Scrapping the reduction of the basic rate of tax will retain the simplicity of pension taxation and tax relief: for every £100 contributed to a pension, most savers can continue to receive an additional £25 in their pensions through tax relief indefinitely.
“However, for many, including pensioners, it will be disappointing to see a core measure, designed to support savers during the cost of living crisis, has been pulled back.”
Several disgruntled Britons took to Twitter to share their despair at the latest announcements.
User @MartinBooth3 remarked: “You haven’t a clue. You’ve tanked the pound, tanked my pension investments, increased my rent.”
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@Ernlaugh wrote: “How can you do this to us RE: energy bills? I am absolutely appalled.
“On top of the Conservative party coming close to losing our pensions, you have betrayed us with our energy bills. You have got to go.”
While @DKingLib1 said: “You’ve trashed the economy in one mini budget. Many will not spend due to uncertainty of energy costs resulting in less money into the economy. Pensions have lost at least 10 percent. Economically incompetent.”
But @RobWasMiles1 described Mr Hunt as a “safe pair of hands” for the economy going forward.
However, the Government is attempting to encourage Britons by stating it will “act decisively and at scale to regain the country’s confidence”.
Mr Hunt warned there may be more difficult decisions to take on both tax and spending going forward.
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