Many people, especially pensioners, will have heard about 'The Triple Lock' particularly in recent times. Some of you though, may not know exactly what it is. I have been told that it would be quite possible to write a Thesis on the Triple Lock but here we provide a short summary.
If anyone is interested in more detail I would suggest a visit to the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) web-site.
The Triple Lock is a device used by government to set the increase in the State Pension in April of each year. It was introduced by the Coalition Government in 2010 in recognition that the real value of the basic State Pension had fallen over many years. It was decided that the State Pension would be increased by 2.5%, or the value of the Consumer Price Index, or the Average Earnings Index the previous September, whichever is the highest. Thus we have the Triple Lock. However the Triple Lock only applies to the basic pension and not to any enhancements such as SERPS or the Graduated Pension.
From 2001 to 2010 the State Pension was increased either by the Retail Price Index (Inflation) or the Index of average earnings. Prior to that the value of the State Pension suffered a very real reduction in value when the link with earnings was broken by the then Conservative government in 1980. Earnings surged ahead at that time and by the time the earnings link was restored in 2010 the basic State Pension stood at £97.65 per week compared with £161.30 per week had the earnings link still been in place. The guaranteed increase of 2.5% introduced in 2010 was a modest attempt to improve the value of the pension.
In addition, the pensions minister at the time made it clear that the triple lock was part of a package of reforms including the rise in State Pension age – so while people would have to wait longer for their pension in the future, once in payment it would be increased.
Even so, this doesn’t mean that over the course of retirement pensioners become better off – often other sources of income diminish - private pensions can lose value over time, savings may get used up, and many face bereavement and a big drop in income.
In April 2016 a New State Pension was introduced at a much higher rate (then £155 pw) which is also linked to the Triple Lock. But it is only payable to folk who retired in 2016 and thereafter which left the vast majority of pensioners on a basic pension of £119pw.
The government suspended the Triple Lock for 2022/23 on the grounds that because the Earnings Index had increased to 8.3% when folk returned to work in the Autumn of 2021 following a spell on furlough the country could not afford it. This despite the fact that the British State Pension remains one of the least adequate in the developed world, ranked 32nd out of 34 OECD countries. Its suspension was opposed by most organisations which are involved with pensioners including, interestingly enough, Belfast City Council, and, of course, the Civil Service Pensioners Alliance.
As a result of the suspension of the Triple Lock the State Pension will increase by 3.1% from April 2022 in line with the September 2021 Consumer Price Index inflation figure. The basic state Pension will increase to £141.85 per week and the “new” flat rate State Pension will increase to £185.15 per week.
While the triple lock is really important to help maintain incomes in retirement, especially for those on low incomes, we must not fall into the trap of seeing it as something that only affects current pensioners and therefore unfair to younger generations. In some respects, any changes will hit the future retirement income of younger people the hardest. Research by the independent Pensions Policy Institute has shown that without the triple lock it will be harder for younger workers on low incomes to achieve an adequate income in retirement. Given the adverse impact the pandemic has had on jobs, earnings, and prospects for saving into a private pension, the State Pension could well become even more important for todays’ workers when they reach retirement.
Members will know that protecting the Triple Lock was one of the NI CSPA's main focus. We pushed the need for it when possible and brought a motion to our main CSPA AGM in Coventry in October.
Members of NI CSPA Branch Committee attended a Parliamentary reception to mark the 70th Anniversary of the CSPA. Protecting the Triple Lock was the key message of this reception. We invited all the NI MPs to attend.
Karma - our reception occurred on the same day as the Triple Lock was being debated on the floor of the House of Commons. I think we can claim some of the credit when the new Chancellor announced that he was going to reinstate the Triple for state pensions. Now to keep the pressure on for our NICS Pensions too.