If there is a debate going on over who next Governs Britain, how we get paid – as workers and pensioners, is at the heart of it. BREXIT may be the most important political issue , but we are no longer debating how to reform Europe, but how to leave it. This appears too difficult a topic for most of us (me included).
The three big issues under debate this weekend are
- To what extent we increase state pensions
- Whether we consider those currently “self-employed” as “workers”
- Whether business owners can use the PPF for gain.
If there is anyone within the Labour party effectively engaging with these issues it is Frank Field. The DWP Select Committee has become a cross-bench agitprop group that seems to have caught the public’s (and the Prime Minister’s attention).
May’s announcement that the Tories will consider a new law to make it illegal to intentionally or recklessly put a pension scheme at risk, is the closest the Labour party has come to influencing policy since Corbyn took over
According to the Prime Minister, the plans would
“ensure the pensions of ordinary working people are protected against the actions of unscrupulous company bosses…..”.
If Field’s tussle with BHS is heard in the background, his tussle with the gig-economy gives him the headline in the BBC’s business section
MPs call for end to ‘bogus’ self-employment”
May has clearly decided that the tap that has been flowing freely on state pension increases , needs to be turned down (though not turned off). Considering the immoderate inequality between the haves and “have nots” in retirement, any curtailment of state benefits – on which poorer pensioners have a high dependency is “too soon” in my book.
The private pension system is systematically skewed to benefit those on higher incomes and until something is done to tackle the gross inequality of tax-relief on pension contributions, any dilution of the triple lock (including those suggested by Steve Webb yesterday) are unwelcome.
What is not being discussed, and should be on the election agenda, is the question of who should meet the cost of long-term care. The Care Act was supposed to have created a universal system which was fair, what appears to have happened is a local authority lottery where the help you get in the last stages of your life depends on the priority given to the issue by local government.
We have of course still to see the manifestos; I don’t suppose those writing them have had much of a bank holiday weekend but – judging by the time they’ve had to prepare them, these documents should at least be short.
It is really good that Field and the Select Committee have had such influence and it is good that May is taking steps to curb rogue employers. If I was her, I would call an enquiry into the role of private equity and venture capital in the shaping of employment practice and pension practice.
We hear of bogus self-employed, but these guys are the bogus bosses. If Britain is run to their timelines, our employment practices and financial planning will continue to be hand to mouth.
How we are taxed is critical and how and when we get that money back – more critical still. The system of insurance within the welfare state has seldom been so high on the agenda.
Britain needs long term thinking about employment, pensions and the cost of old age in terms of healthcare and social care. If this election puts these back on a par with BREXIT, it will at least have done some good.
BBC article on bogus self-employment; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39765768
FT article “Theresa May hints at scrapping tax and pension locks” ; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39765768
Touchstone blog that resonates (thanks Con Keating); http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2017/04/rights-work-may-day-happening/