Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The key concerns of older people

Copy of my letter of reply to Bristol Older People's Forum: Many thanks for your recent letter seeking my views as a general election candidate on the Pensioner’s Manifesto, recently published by the National Pensioners’ Convention. You identify six main areas of concern: the state pension level; the shambolic system of social care for older people; the regressive council tax; disparities in free local transport between England and the rest of the UK; lack of priority given to tackling prevalent ageism and unfair discrimination on grounds of older age; and the increasing problem of fuel poverty amongst older people. I’m very happy to give you my views and the policies of the Green Party on each issue.

In the last few years I’ve lost my elderly father in law, who had a stroke, and my elderly mother in law, who suffered dementia. Being very close to them and having first hand knowledge of how the NHS and the care home system unfairly and at times negligently dealt with them and the family I feel more strongly than ever about ageism and the lack of priority afforded to tackling it. I’m sad to say that many families share my experiences. Discrimination and poor service for older people suffering strokes and dementia have been widely reported. Older people need and deserve protection against discrimination whether in employment or in the provision of goods and services. The Green Party supports legislation against age discrimination, and would ensure that EC law in this area is properly implemented. We also demand appropriate housing, benefits and health and social care provision, and we will work to ensure that we have good public services that provide properly for older people, ensuring respect and dignity for all.

The full state pension for a single pensioner is only £95.25, a massive decline since the link with earnings was broken by the Tory government in 1979. Many pensioners, especially women, don't even get a full state pension. The Green Party would introduce a Citizen's Pension that would pay pensioners a liveable amount, without means testing and would be linked to the rise in average earnings. Pensioners should not have to leap through the hoops of complicated and demeaning means tests in order to get a decent pension. We believe that we all owe older people a decent standard of living without demeaning means tests. The foundation of doing so is a proper state pension for all.

The Green Party has a plan for rebuilding the economy so that it delivers for people, but also operates within environmental limits. This plan is called the Green New Deal - a £45 billion investment to create 1 million jobs and lay the foundations for a sustainable and fair society. Our plan includes decent pensions and free social care for older people, creating 60,000 jobs. It provides for free insulation for all homes, schools and hospitals to reduce bills and tackle fuel poverty and the avoidable winter deaths that go with it – and this would create 80,000 jobs.

The Green New Deal also includes investment in a major expansion of public transport: doubling the size of the bus fleet through an investment of £3 billion to buy 30,000 new buses and create 70,000 jobs; providing a further £2 billion to subsidise bus fares and get new services operational; bringing the railway system back into public ownership and spending £2 billion on new track and rolling stock, and on urban tram schemes - together creating 20,000 jobs; reducing UK rail fares by one third to bring them in line with the European average through a £3 billion subsidy.

Greens are opposed to the regressive council tax and want to replace it with a system of Land Value Taxation (LVT, previously known as Community Ground Rent). In the short term we would support any reform of the council tax that reduces unfairness and improves its relationship to ability to pay. We would precede the introduction of land value tax with some land value tax pilots. LVT rates will be set at a local level. The valuation would be of the land alone, exempting all buildings on it, recent and future improvements to it, or indeed minerals extracted from it, which would be separately taxed. LVT would therefore not be a tax on the rent of buildings, the value of crops, manufactured products or the product of other forms of work.

I’ve done my best to supply you with principles and policies – and where possible some figures – directly related to your six main issues. If you require further information please dont hesitate to contact me. Further information is available on both the local and national Green Party websites (details below). You will find a record of my campaigning, before, during and after the election, on my blog...

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