07:27 Monday 22nd April 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: Are many pensioners receiving too many benefits and paying too little tax? A new report from the left of centre Fabian Society suggests that might just be the case. It says middle income pensioners have typically done much better than working households in recent years. Well Tony Bonsignore is here, our business guru. Morning.
TONY BONSIGNORE: Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: I can hear pensioners across Cambridgeshire going “No”
TONY BONSIGNORE: Yes indeed. Yes indeed. And I think some politicians in Westminster will be reading this this morning and I imagine shuddering at the thought of what this will do to their vote as well. Can I give you their argument, and you can make up your own mind?
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Go on.
TONY BONSIGNORE: The Fabian Society have crunched some numbers on this, and they’ve said this. They said if you look at kind of average, so not the poorest pensioners. If you look at mid .. what I call middle income pensioners, and you compare that to what they’re calling middle income working households, a lot’s changed over the past twenty or thirty years or so. And in fact middle income pensioners have done much better comparatively than middle income working households. So a couple of numbers for you here, in 1979 a middle income working household received something like 93% more than the average pensioner. That number’s now 37%. So they say the gap has narrowed significantly. We’ve done a lot to eradicate pensioner poverty. Given all that, they say, is it fair that pensioners pay less tax than working households, and get all these benefits like Winter Fuel Allowance, and passes, bus passes, and the like. Given all that they say there’s as case for reconsidering all of that. And that’s a pretty controversial conclusion.
PAUL STAINTON: What do age campaigners say?
TONY BONSIGNORE: They say .. they do admit that there has been a reduction in pensioner poverty. They say there’s lots that the last government has done and this government has done to try and .. you know, to attack the problem of pensioners on low incomes. But they say that’s not everybody. They say there’s still something like 1.7 million pensioners living in poverty today. A further million they say are only just above the poverty line, so they say this isn’t really the thing to do, and the Government you can imagine very sensitive to this. It’s not considering doing this, at least not before the next election. It knows that this will be a real vote loser. And that’s a really important group for it of course.
PAUL STAINTON: And I think pensioners will say, well hold on a minute, we’ve paid in like everybody else. Just because we’re working a bit and got some money coming in on top of that, that’s our prerogative perhaps.
TONY BONSIGNORE: Yes, and they will say that. yes. And that’s the point being made by Age UK today. They will say yes, people have paid in to the system. The money that they get back isn’t exactly overly generous. And a lot of pensioners are still struggling. But the counter-argument to that, and another thing I should mention to you as well here, it’s not just about incomes. The other thing they’re talking about here, another very sensitive political subject, is housing. They’re saying look, twenty years ago a little more than half of pensioners owned their own homes. Now it’s three quarters. And these people they say bought their houses for relatively little money. It’s time they say to introduce something like a property tax, a levy on property, because at the moment the problem is the younger people, they’re being forced into renting, while the older generation are reaping the benefits of owning that property and buying it for relatively small amounts. As I say, very controversial stuff, especially for a government that’s so committed to maintaining all these benefits for pensioners.
PAUL STAINTON: Tony thank you for that this morning.