What the General Election means for pensioners

The policies around pensions: where the political parties stand


Pensioners vote. It's one of the immutable facts of polling day - along with the rain and parents complaining about closed schools. It's why the run up to 8 June will see a flurry of policies announced by each of the political parties in order to woo the pensioner population. So what can we expect?

See also: Here's how a snap general election could be seriously good for investors

See also: General election could put already slowing housing market on pause

While younger people are put off by the weather, disillusionment, and the fact they have a busy day, older people are too busy getting themselves down to the polling station to worry about anything like that.

It makes them a key demographic for each of the political parties, so you can expect them all to announce policies on a range of issues facing older people.

The triple lock

This is a guarantee that the State Pension will always rise with either inflation, earnings or 2.5% - whatever is higher. So far the Conservatives - through Philip Hammond - have pledged to keep it until the end of 'this parliament'. At the time he hinted that the days of the triple lock may be numbered, but this is highly unlikely to make it to the manifesto. Meanwhile Labour has agreed to stick to it until at least 2025. The Liberal Democrats have not yet revealed their policy - although in the past, Nick Clegg has called for it to come to an end.

Tom McPhail, Head of Policy at Hargreaves Lansdown says: "The over 65s are such a powerful voter group, politically It would be a very bold move for the Tories to explicitly resile from the Triple Lock this side of the election. It might make more sense for them to park it until 2020 by committing to maintain the policy until then, subject to a wider fiscal sustainability review encompassing other issues such as the state pension age. Given Labour's poor poll ratings with the older age groups, it would make sense for them to press hard on this issue; they need to gain ground with the over 65s."

He adds that in his own view: "The policy is not sustainable in the long term, so it is a question of if rather than when the policy is formally abandoned. The General Election could present an opportunity for parties to lay the groundwork for a modification during the term of the next parliament."

Calculate your pension here

Pension tax relief

This costs the Treasury about £48 billion a year, and two thirds of this benefits higher-rate and top rate taxpayers, so it has been in the firing line for a while. However, no party has an official policy to do anything about it.

McPhail isn't expecting it to be a major vote winner, so it's unlikely to feature in the manifestos, however, he would like to see the political parties make the most of this opportunity. He says: "There would be wide-spread support for reform of pension taxation but only if it were done in a measured way, building a sustainable system which encourages and rewards everyone for taking responsibility for their own retirement saving. The problem is successive governments have a adopted more of a smash and grab approach to pension tax reform; now would be an ideal moment to commit to a progressive and sustainable review in the next parliament."

State Pension Age

Raising the state pension age is another vote loser, so we are unlikely to hear much about it during campaigning. However, McPhail warns that this doesn't mean any of the political parties will stop the tide of raising pension ages,

It's currently scheduled to increase to 66 by 2020, 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2046, but McPhail says that everyone knows more is needed, the only question is how quickly. The Cridland review pointed to the State Pension increasing to 69 or 70, with a move to 68 by 2039, 7 years earlier than currently planned. The government has not responded to this review, and may not do so now until after the election.

WASPI (Women against state pension inequality)

This campaign came out of the lack of communication to women who have been adversely affected by the rises in state pension age - for whom it all came as a nasty surprise. The Conservative Party - and the coalition before it - continually refused to offer any form of compensation, while Labour and the SNP have argued that the WASPI women should get pension credit, taking their income up to £155 a week.

Calculate your pension here

Watering down defined benefit pensions

Pensions Minister Richard Harrington has published a green paper looking at the sustainability of defined benefit pensions. One option is to allow employers to offer less robust inflation proofing in future. We will have to wait to see whether any party tries to win the support of older voters by committing to stop this change.

State pension increases for overseas pensioners

UK pensioners living abroad, most notably in former Commonwealth countries, see their pensions frozen on the day they move overseas. The current government has never responded to pressure to link it to inflation, but John McDonnell and the DWP shadow Debbie Abrahams have said they will do something about this.

Universal pensioner benefits

The current Labour government has committed to preserve the free bus pass and winter fuel allowance. Philip Hammond hinted in his Autumn Statement that these benefits would need to be reconsidered for the next parliament, but has never gone beyond a hint. McPhail says it's highly unlikely any party will make this a manifesto pledge given the fact it will go down so badly with older voters. However, he adds that we shouldn't rule out the possibility that anyone staying quiet on the subject could bring in changes during the next parliament.

How we spend our pensions

How we spend our pensions