Downing Street has defended its intention to offer a possible double-digit rise in the state pension next year, even as workers are urged to take pay cuts on real terms.
Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed this week that the government is sticking to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledge to reinstate the “triple lock” on state pensions.
The triple lock protects the incomes of the elderly by ensuring that the state pension will increase each spring in line with inflation, average wage growth or 2.5% – whichever is greater.
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With inflation around 11% this autumn – and September inflation the benchmark figure used for the calculation of the triple lock – that could mean a double-digit percentage increase in the benefit.
Yet workers – including railway staff on strike – are asked to accept the “sacrifice” of wage agreements well below the rise in the cost of living, in order to avoid creating a spiral in which large wage increases would result in further upward pressure on price.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked why public sector workers could not enjoy the same pay treatment as those receiving pensions or other benefits – also in line with the increase.
He told reporters: ‘It’s always about striking the right balance when it comes to making sure we fairly reward our public sector workers while not doing anything irresponsible with public finances in general. .
“The Chancellor needs to look at all of this as a whole and I think we can deliver on that commitment without stoking inflationary pressures, but you know we have made tough decisions on the triple lockdown with a one-year temporary suspension.”
The triple lock was suspended this year as an increase in wage growth data in 2021, skewed by the impact of the pandemic, could have resulted in a much larger than usual rise in pensions.
But the Chancellor confirmed last month, while announcing a new £15billion cost-of-living aid package that will see the money removed from every household’s energy bill, as the triple lockdown would return next spring.
Mr Clarke confirmed the policy in a written response to Labor MP Janet Daby on the help available to pensioners facing inflationary pressures.
This will mean an increase in pensions that will be much higher than inflation at the time, which should by then have fallen from its current four-decade highs.
But the message for workers was different.
Mr Clarke told Sky News on Monday: ‘If we are to prevent the evil of inflation… then we are going to have to show collective responsibility across society.
“I recognize that there are sacrifices involved in this situation.”
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