Are pensioners going to be left with a raw deal as the triple lock becomes increasingly unsustainable? - analysis by Olivia Utley

Pensioners and Jeremy Hunt

Are pensioners going to be left with a raw deal as the triple lock becomes increasingly unsustainable?

Olivia Utley

By Olivia Utley

Published: 13/09/2023

- 16:06

Updated: 13/09/2023

- 17:13

'The triple lock is less a gimmick than a noose around the Government’s neck'

When David Cameron first triumphantly unveiled the pension triple lock back in 2010, it was widely believed to be a clever political gimmick, unlikely to cause too many real problems for the Government.

Back in those halcyon days, increasing the state pension by inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest, didn’t seem like a big ask: inflation was at a modest 4.5 per cent, and wages were rising slowly and steadily.

If the Conservatives stick to their own manifesto commitment of honouring the triple lock, they must raise the state pension by 8.5 per cent – taking the annual bill close to a whopping £140billion for the UK’s 12 million pensioners.

So, will they honour it? There have been whispers in Westminster this week that the Government could tinker with the way the triple lock is calculated.

Pensioners in Derby

Pensioners in Derby


Traditionally, “average earnings” has been interpreted to mean average salaries plus average bonuses.

This time, however, ministers are considering taking bonuses out of the equation.

This might not sound like a big deal, but it could end up saving the Treasury upwards of 600 million this year alone – and leaving pensioners 74 a year worse off.

Whether the electorate would accept this watered-down version of the triple lock remains to be seen.




Pensioner holding coins

Pensioner holding coins


And what about long term? In Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak was very careful not to commit to the policy after an election.

And Labour, too, is pretty lukewarm on the subject: this week Angela Rayner said Labour would need to “inspect the country’s finances before deciding”.

Both parties are keen to woo the “grey vote” – it’s a widely acknowledged truth that pensioners turn out in high numbers at elections – but perhaps not at any cost.

As the proportion of pensioners increases year on year, the triple lock becomes increasingly unsustainable.

Pensioners won’t like it, but one way or another, it sounds like this relic coalition policy will soon be for the scrap heap.

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