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Sunak indicates he will keep ‘triple lock’ on pensions
LONDON: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave his strongest hint yet that he will protect UK pensioners against the impact of soaring inflation when his government sets out its tax and spending plans tomorrow.
Sunak said he has a “track record” of caring about pensioners dating from his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer, “particularly when it comes to things like energy and heating because they are especially vulnerable to cold weather”.
“I am someone who understands the particular challenge of pensioners,” Sunak told reporters travelling with him to the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
“We will put fairness and compassion at the heart of all the decisions we make and I am confident people will see that tomorrow.”
Britain’s new prime minister has faced political pressure to stick to the so-called triple lock on state pensions, meaning payments rise yearly in line with the highest of three figures – inflation, average earnings or 2.5%.
But with inflation reaching double digits, the cost to the government of doing so will be high, especially as ministers have been told to find savings across government departments.
As chancellor, Sunak scrapped the triple lock last year, albeit for the 2022-2023 tax year only, due to distortions to the wages data caused by the country emerging from the pandemic.
As things stand, it’s set to be restored for the next tax year, with an announcement due sometime in the fall.
But following Liz Truss’s short-lived premiership, the country’s financial position has worsened.
That makes lifting pensions in line with inflation a sensitive issue at a time when the government is denying public sector bodies equivalent increases to avoid fuelling higher prices. Nurses are the latest group of publicly-funded workers to announce they will stage walkouts over pay.
On the flip side, a generous offer to pensioners would play well with Sunak’s Conservative Party base, which is mostly older and retired.