arrived to my letters to the Party Leaders, this is from the Liberal Democrats. Sounds promising but then they all do.
4 Cowley Street
19 April 2010
Many thanks for your letter to Nick Clegg. I'm replying to letters and emails on his behalf.
We agree with you that pensioners have had an unfair deal for too long - and the advent of mass means-testing for pensioners has had a disastrous effect on incentives to put money aside for retirement. As such, we'd restore the link between pensions and earnings immediately, so that pensioners fall no further behind the wealth of the nation. In fact, we'd raise pensions by whichever is the highest of earnings, inflation or 2.5%, so pensions begin automatically to rise relative to average income as time goes by.
This would be a first step towards a universal Citizen's Pension, set at a considerably more generous level than the present pension, which would slash means-testing and help millions of pensioners. This would benefit a great many pensioners, reducing the proportion subject to means-testing from nearly 50% to under 10% and benefiting . people who have, for whatever reason, not been able to build up a full pension record under the current system. However, it's important to be honest about the state of Britain's finances - as such, we'd only be able to do this as resources allow.
In addition, Liberal Democrats are committed to the principle of scrapping the unfair Council Tax, introduced by the Conservatives and carried on by Labour. Currently Council Tax places an excessive burden on pensioners, who end up paying a far higher proportion of their income as council tax compared to high-earners. It hits the bottom 10% of the income spectrum hardest and is not even based on property ownership ¬simply on residence. We would replace Council Tax with a fair local tax, related to ability to pay - this would help millions of people in Britain, especially pensioners.
We also think that the benefits system needs significant reform. At the moment, not enough is being done to help people who can work into work and off benefits. We need to create a simpler, fairer system that encourages people who can work to find employment, which would allow more resources to be directed to those who can't. A one-size-fits-all policy cannot and will not meet the needs of unemployed people - so we want to tailor assistance to meet their individual needs and aspirations, so that they get the support they need to get back into sustainable employment.
We've argued for a Single Working Age Benefit to replace both Jobseeker's Allowance and Incapacity Benefit. With each claimant, there would be a 'labour market disadvantage assessment' to assess their specific barriers to work -like poor health, age and local labour market conditions - so they can have a personalised programme of support and responsibilities. We'd also aim to replace JobCentre Plus with a new First Steps Agency, using the voluntary and private sectors to deliver personalised support to help people into work. A DWP report found that private and voluntary providers had a 10% higher success rate in helping the long-term unemployed into sustainable employment.
Thank you once again for writing to us.
General Election Response Team
I have still not received a reply to my second letter to Gordon Brown. Neither have I received a reply from my MP (Labour) to my letter asking him for his thoughts on the first letter I sent to Gordon Brown, his Party Leader, of which I sent him a copy. Obviously he doesn't want my vote. I have emailed our local paper informing them of the lackadaisical attitude of our town's MP and suggested they ask him for his opinion on my concerns. I'll let you know if anything comes of it, though by Thursday it will be too late as all the votes will be cast.