Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 5

Pensions and Pensioners have recently moved up the agenda as far as British politics are concerned. The reason for this is that the New Labour Government face a general election in possibly 12 months time and their almost certain reelection is no longer so certain. Recent Local Government Elections indicated that UK pensioners are far from satisfied with a Government that promised pensioners would share in the countries prosperity.


Politicians of whatever party or nationality fear loss of office. UK politicians now realise that an angry older generation is a force to be reckoned with. There are 11 million pensioners in the UK and the percentage of pensioners who exercise their vote is considerably higher than those in employment.


Tony Blair's Government has introduced a number of benefits for the elderly. These include free eye tests, free T.V. licenses for the over 75's and an annual lump sum heating allowance. In response the Conservative Party promise, if elected, to remove these payments and replace them with an increase in Retirement Pensions. The problem with the Conservative proposals is that the increase is too small to make a significant difference and is taxable. The benefits to be withdrawn are not taxable and so there is little new money intended for pensioners.


Both these courses of action fail to tackle the real problem of UK pensions. Pensions were increased in line with Average Earnings until Mrs Margaret Thatcher severed this link and indexed increases instead to the Retail Price Index. There are two things wrong with this. Firstly the Retail Price Increase does not measure the spending paten of an elderly person. It includes, for instance, mortgage payments for house purchase when most pensioners have finished paying for their house. The major expenditure of older people tends to be on food and heating. Secondly, Average Earnings increase faster than the Retail Price Index. Had the link been maintained pensioners would have been considerably better off. As a result, UK pensioners are worse off than almost all pensioners in the developed countries of Europe.


No major political party is going to restore the original index and, if they ever did, would not make it retrospective. Thus the position of UK pensioners, relative to the rest of Europe, can only get worse.


Recent improvements in pensions for women in the UK have come about through European Court decisions that have been implemented by the British Government. Also, European declarations that pensions are deferred pay is of major importance although the way this view has been received in the UK is less than satisfactory. This is particularly true of the TSB Pension Fund which has a massive surplus. Lloyds Bank have taken over the TSB and there is no longer a Savings Bank in the UK This throws up a variety of issues as to the use of the surplus and also pensioner representation on the TSB Pension Trust, who look after our pensions.


It looks at last if 'Pensioner Power' is beginning to stir and politicians who fail to acknowledge this fact may well pay the price. We can expect to see packages of improvements for pensioners as the political parties compete for our support.


Being a member of our European Group offers a number of advantages for UK pensioners. First and foremost is the opportunity to make friends and share experiences with retired people from other countries, with similar backgrounds.


The increasing prestige of our organisation, reflected in sponsorship by UNESCO, enables us to hear pre-eminent experts. Although this article concentrates on the situation in the UK, we share many common problems with our European colleagues. Intergenerational co-operation and the problems of a shorter economically productive life together with a greater life expendancy, is universal. We have been fortunate to hear acknowledged experts address these problems.


From a personal point of view, I have a much greater appreciation of Spain and the Spanish people, as a result of attending 'Euromeetings'.


The way forward for our organisation was mapped out this year at Platja d'Aro and offers an exciting and influential future.


It is no secret that the British are apprehensive about wider participation in Europe. Putting aside my own political views, there can be no such doubts as to the benefit to UK former Savings Bank staff of belonging to our organisation. I hope that over a period of time more of my former colleagues can enjoy the beneficial experiences that I have enjoyed.



Barry Ingham (Liverpool)

President of TSB Bank Retired Staff Association

Manchester Region