Gordon Brown was caned for his hard-line approach to pensioners in the last government, but with his...
Gordon Brown was caned for his hard-line approach to pensioners in the last government, but with his new "borrow and spend" budget proposals has cannily left the door open to taking more votes from the silver surfer brigade with his push to increase the basic tax allowances for people aged over 65.
In Wednesday's pre-Budget statement, the Treasury proposed that as of next April the age-related personal allowance for those aged 65 to 74 be increased by £400 to £6,610.
For those 75 and up it will be increased by £240 to £6,720.
And not only did the government promise that no tax would be levied on any pensioner with income below £127, but it also said it was re-linking increases in age-related allowances to earnings inflation rather than price inflation.
No wonder Gordon Brown does not want to award a 40% pay increase to Fire Brigades Union members.
However, there is another longer-term aspect to this change, which has to do with the fact workers do not stop voting when they retire.
According to National Statistics, there were 10.8 million people in the UK aged 65 or older in 2001 compared to a total workforce of 36.2 million.
The numbers are projected to reach 12 million and 37.5 million respectively by 2011.
That means 25.7% of votes are already held by those aged 65 and over.
The proportion dips slightly to 24.3% by 2011, mainly due to the effect of more women being encouraged to stay in the workforce as the government starts shifting the retirement age for women to 65 from 60 between 2010 to 2020.
However, the long-term forecasts are consistent in predicting a growing number of pensioners and Gordon Brown can only be too aware of the pending struggle to succeed Tony Blair.
There are plenty of assumptions in the picture, such as the dynamic duo of Brown and Blair successfully negotiating wage inflation pressures, entry into the eurozone and geopolitical issues until the next general election.
Still, placating pensioners with earnings-linked allowances would leave Brown nicely set up to take on the mantle just before or after the next general election as the first consequences of the demographic shift start feeding through into people's everyday lives.
May 2005 would seem an obvious choice for an election given the three-year public sector wage deals the Treasury is looking for coupled with the predictions of a two year recovery starting next year.
It would be an election supported, Brown no doubt hopes, by hoards of elderly voters thankful for the pension increases they have received.
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