Pensioners aren't all poor

IT WAS interesting – and encouraging – to see Suffolk County Council leader Bryony Rudkin urging the government to fundamentally reform local taxation this week.

IT WAS interesting – and encouraging – to see Suffolk County Council leader Bryony Rudkin urging the government to fundamentally reform local taxation this week.

But I really hope she and her administration stick to their guns and are not seduced into giving an across the board discount to pensioners in Suffolk.

I don't deny for a minute that many pensioners find the current council tax bills a real struggle – the letters and coupons we've had on that subject bear it out.

However the reason these people have difficulty in paying is not age-related. It's not that they're on a pension, it's that they are on a low income. And that is a problem for all ages.

One of the great myths in Britain is that all pensioners are impoverished. That's simply not true.

I'm not denying that those who have to rely completely on the state pension do struggle, but many many senior citizens have an occupational pension and are quite comfortably off.

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They may have less money coming in than when they were working, but they have less money going out as well – generally speaking they've paid off the mortgage and the children have fled the nest.

Advertising people have identified this group – Woopies (Well Off Older People).

If all pensioners were impoverished, how would a company like Saga survive?

They take regular holidays and are enjoying a freedom they never had when they were working.

Good luck to them. I have no problem with that at all.

But it isn't right for their council tax bills to be subsidised by a young family with mum and dad both at work trying hard to make ends meet.

There's nothing wrong with high-earners subsidising the council tax bills of low income households – but for a 30-year-old to subsidise a 70-year-old simply on a basis of age is not right.

So why has this suggestion about subsidising pensioners been taken up by so many councils across the country?

Could it be that cynical local politicians have recognised that the older you are, the more likely you are to vote.

All political parties are desperate to attract the "grey vote."

Recent attempts to offer discounts to pensioners look very transparent – and merely reinforce the "poor pensioner" stereotype.

That is a disservice to all pensioners – you shouldn't be seen as one of society's victims just because you've passed your 65th birthday.

BABERGH council has come under fire for preventing householders from extending their homes.

This is a tough call – it's easy to have sympathy for all sides in the argument.

But perhaps the solution lies not with penalising those who want a larger home without moving somewhere else but rather in building more small homes in towns and villages across the district.

Babergh is covered by attractive small communities where cottages are snapped up by Londoners seeking a holiday home or by Woopies (see above) looking to "downsize" by moving to the countryside.

Cottages in these communities get bought for what is a low price for Londoners but is out of the range for Suffolk youngsters seeking a place on the housing ladder.

They then get extended as their wealthy owners find they're not big enough – and that makes them even more unaffordable for local people.

What is needed to provide more housing opportunities for local people in Babergh is more homes – even if that upsets some local residents.

Frankly its no good for people in Shotley to complain in one breath about plans for new housing estate and in the other to moan that there's nowhere for young people to live in the area.

The construction industry – like every other business – needs economies of scale. The price of a single house is lower if you're building 500 than if you're building 10.

It makes a lot more sense for developers in an area like Babergh to build 500 new homes in three or four locations – say Shotley, Capel, Hadleigh and Sudbury – than it does to build 10 homes in each village across the district.

That way you'd be sure of getting extra executive homes or bijou cottages dotted across the area – all out of the range of local first-time buyers.

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