This week was budget week and there’s no denying that the chancellor had his eyes firmly fixed on one section of the electorate. Better-off pensioners and savers were the clear winners this Wednesday when the government announced the decision to allow greater freedom and choice, allowing them to access their pensions more freely and providing financial advice about investments. They also announced a new high-yield pension saving bond and voluntary national insurance contributions, which represented bold moves to boost incomes at a challenging time for savers and people reaching state pension age.
While we welcome these moves, this was not a blanket giveaway to pensioners. These moves will really only benefit the fairly comfortable older voter. The poorest pensioners – those reliant on Attendance Allowance, Housing Benefit, Pension Credit, PIP and the Winter Fuel Payment, which will all be included in the announced cap on welfare spending, will all still have cause for concern. And while, of course, we welcome Wednesday’s announcements, it’s hard not to be a little cynical. George Osborne is a strategist and the figures speak for themselves; in 2010, 76% of the over-65s voted, compared with only 44% among the under 25s. So, it’s easy to see why the Chancellor had his sights set on them – numerically speaking, they matter more than the younger voter who came away with a penny off a pint and a tax cut on Bingo.
As the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, neatly put it: “On the matter of pension changes. I tell you what I can see with the politics of this: the sorts of people who are ageing and have a little bit of money, who are those people? It is not too cynical to say they're either the core Tory vote, the people that are disillusioned and thinking of not voting, or often the sorts of people that don't much like this government and have been tempted by Mr Farage and UKIP.”
However, lets’ not end the week on such a heavy note, but turn our attention to the misadventures of 74-year-old paraglider, Martin Bumgarner, who was left dangling 60m above the ground for three hours this week after becoming tangled in Swiss cable car wire. Mr Bumgarner was blown off course in strong wind. But, too high to be reached by ladder, rescuers saved the pensioner by placing a giant cushion beneath him.