HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE WHO READS THIS BLOG
2018 was a mixed year for those looking for better pensions.
On the plus side, we are finally getting auto-enrolment. The predicted increase in opt-outs didn’t happen, when member contributions tripled, we look forward to 2019 with eqanimity.
On the plus side – we now have the possibility of a queen’s speech with meaningful reform from the DB White Paper and the CDC and Pension Dashboard consultations.
On the plus side, DB schemes appear better funded, though only at the cost of massive employer contributions which might otherwise have been deployed lifting the country out of austerity.
But I will look back at this year as another wasted year.
Austerity is still here – look to the streets.
I am in Shaftesbury where I was born, my father died this year, dying in Salisbury, a town that was in virtual lock-down at the time. We live with the threat of terror around us, Gatwick is closed by a drone, a crime with a million victims and no perpetrator.
The sole Christian institution in Shaftesbury that is growing, reaches out to the community through a food bank. Even in rural north Dorset, there are signs of poverty everywhere. The old and those on benefits have less, there are less police, less ambulances, less school places per capita. The library, such as it is, has few new books.
After 8 years of austerity the fabric of rural towns like Shaftesbury continues to deteriorate. In real terms people are poorer than they were ten years ago.
2018 was supposed to be the year we turned austerity off, but what I see in Shaftesbury , I see in other British towns small and large – and I see it most of all in London, where the divide between those making money and those squeezed for money is greatest. The disgrace of Grenfell lingers on our conscience.
Instead of tackling destitution we argue about BREXIT
In the little things of pensions to the great disaster of social inequality, the conscience of our country has been turned off.
It is apparently acceptable for over 1m people to be denied a promised Government because the Treasury cannot be bothered to put in the software to pay it – I refer not to the net-pay anomaly, but to the net pay scandal.
Equally – it is apparently acceptable for people to be sleeping rough on our streets this Christmas – in greater numbers than ever.
My friend – @GlesgaBrighton has been collecting examples of the current state of the nation. Here are a few from his timeline.
So, it’s been a hellish week. The family business was started by my grandad after the war. Most employees have been with us for a long time.
I did not want to run it, was happy enough in the City, but when my uncle retired someone had to.
We did OK for 9 years
— Cricketfan (@batanball) December 21, 2018
This is so messed up. The govt squanders £4.2 billion on Brexit, yet cuts £85 million from next year’s vital public health & preventative medicine budget.
More cancer, more lung disease, more avoidable deaths. What twisted, warped priorities. https://t.co/c2e8LWsOrM
— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) December 21, 2018
Sorry, UK, but when i walk past 14 people sleeping rough on the streets in affluent Bournemouth, I’m afraid we’ve got something badly wrong.
— Merry Smithmas (@Smithy0364) December 20, 2018
He catches the Zeitgeist. There is a deep unease in this country at present and it’s founded in our failure to tackle the inequality that has grown since the financial crash of 2008.
The poor have paid and are still paying for the behaviour of the rich. Meanwhile our Government is locked in an internal argument which is irrelevant to the problems of poverty.
I am a Christian – this will not do
Whether you come at this question with Christian faith – as I do, or with other religious faith – or with no faith at all (like Paul Lewis), our common sense of decency to our fellow men and women commands us to cry out against social justice and do what we can to right it.
I have tried it from all political angles, in my youth I was a Liberal Party Agent, my political hero(one) is Angela Rayner, I am a member of the Tory Party because I thought I could be most effective from within. But I realise that if I have influence it is through my blog.
Ten years old and still campaigning.
Next week, my blog will be ten years old, I have posted over 3,500 times and the blog has been read over 1m times. There are better writers to read, but I like to think that my voice has become my own and authentic.
I’ve actually found myself through my blogging. I mean by that – that when I re-read stuff I’ve written over this period of my life – I start to make sense of me.
I’m a f@*ked up idiot like everybody else – I’ve fallen from grace many times and there are many who’ve pointed that out.
But I’ve found my authentic voice and that’s important to me. I have an identity – I know who I am and people know what it is that I stand for.
Goodbye and good riddance?
2019 may well be worse than 2018, things can get worse before they get better. As I write, I see no way out of this BREXIT mess, nor do I see how we can close the food banks down and get people off the street.
In parochial terms , I see no way to reform the pensions system to make it work for those who have less till we accept we keep our promises on things like Government incentives.
I don’t see a way forward for the pension dashboard unless we rest it from the oligarchy of dasboard-istas who would centralise control around a single pension finder service controlled by the usual suspects.
I don’t see a way back to fully funded collective pensions, till people recognise that DC is not right for the mass of this population who cannot turn capital into an income for life (the process of paying a pension).
I want to say goodbye and good riddance to all this but I can’t. We can be shot of 2018, but its baggage is carried into the new year.
But it’s Christmas and it’s time to wish each other well
Those people who read this blog, and go to TTF meetings, and come to Pension PlayPen lunches are a proper community of people who do give a toss about making things better.
We may not be able to change the big things- BREXIT being the biggest – but we can attend to the little things.