The Committee was reminded that the Council, at its meeting on 1st September, had passed the following motion, which had been proposed by Alderman Copeland and seconded by Councillor Hutchinson:
"As the Chair of the Reference Group on Older People, I am deeply concerned at the consequences for local pensioners, should the Government move to end the State Pension “Triple Lock Guarantee”, which was introduced in 2010 to inflation proof the UK state pension.
Accordingly, the Council agrees to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, requesting him to honour the “Triple Lock Guarantee”, thereby ensuring the real time, real value of the State Pension.
The Council is aware of other proposed reforms which may be used to camouflage a diluting of the “State Pension Triple Lock Guarantee”. This is not acceptable.
The Council also notes the Government’s decision to cut the Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit uplift and reiterates its call for the uplift to be retained.”
The City Solicitor informed the Committee that a response had been received from the Rt. Hon. Simon Clark M.P., the Minister responsible for public spending.
The Minister had begun by pointing out that the Government was committed to ensuring that older people were able to live with the dignity and respect which they deserve and that the State Pension was the foundation of state support for older people.
He had explained that, since 2010, the State Pension had been uprated by the highest of average earnings growth, price inflation or 2.5%, an approach known as the Triple Lock. The full basic State Pension in 2021/22 was, compared to 2010, over £2,050 a year higher in cash terms and over £875 a year higher in real terms.
The Minister had then made reference to other support available beyond the State Pension, such as Winter Fuel Payments and free eye tests, NHS prescriptions and bus passes. Some pensioners might also qualify for means tested benefits, including Pension Credit and Housing Benefit.
Last year, the Government had delivered primary legislation to increase State Pensions by 2.5%, at a time when earnings had fallen and price inflation had increased by half a percentage point. If this action had not been taken, State Pensions would have been frozen.
Due to the effect of the pandemic and furlough on the labour market, reported average wage growth had increased markedly to above 8% which was an anomaly. Increasing pensions by more than 8% this year would be unfair, unsustainable and hugely costly.
That, he had pointed out, was the reason why the Government was taking the responsible and fair decision to temporarily move to a double lock this year. That meant that the State Pension would rise next year by the higher of inflation or 2.5%, thereby ensuring that pensioners were protected against the rising cost of living.
The Minister had confirmed that this was a temporary change and that it would be for one year only and had added that the Government remained committed to implementing the Triple Lock for the remainder of Parliament.
He had then addressed the request within the motion to retain the Universal Credit uplift by stating that the £20 per week increase was always meant to be a temporary measure to support those households whose incomes and earnings were being affected by the economic shock of Covid-19. Extending the uplift permanently would incur a very significant annual cost and would be equivalent in 2022-23 to adding 1p to the basic rate of income tax and 3p to fuel duty.
He had highlighted the fact that the Government was, within the welfare system, maintaining the increase to Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit in cash terms in 2021-22, which was worth an extra £600 on average for more than 1.5 million households. It was also enabling Universal Credit claimants to retain more of their monthly awards by bringing forward to April 2021 a planned reduction in the deductions cap and an increase in the UC advances repayment period.
The Government was also maintaining its focus on helping people move back into work. As part of its comprehensive Plan for Jobs, it had announced the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, which would create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people, and the new three-year Restart programme, which would provide intensive and tailored support to over one million unemployed Universal Credit claimants across England and Wales and assist them in finding work.
The Minister had added that the Budget had built on this work by making an additional £126 million available for traineeships in England, increasing the payments for employers who hire new apprentices between April and September 2021 and establishing a £7 million flexi-job apprenticeships fund to enable apprentices to work across different employers, which had been launched in August 2021. The National Living Wage had also been raised in April, to ensure that the lowest paid workers continued to receive pay rises.
The Committee noted the response.