The newspapers have been predicting that George Osborne is expected to raise the pension age to 69 in his Autumn statement today. The cut he made last year to the incomes of some of the poorest pensioners however has gone almost unnoticed by the press.
Last year Osborne pegged benefit rises at 1% for the next two years no matter what happens to inflation. This measure included Local Housing Allowance, the benefit paid to those on low incomes in to provide help with rent payments. Pensioners are also eligible for this benefit, and the latest DWP statistics show that over 210,000 private sector tenants over 65 depend on this support.
Almost no-one seems to have noticed that this means that Osborne’s changes will hit pensioners despite government lies they would be protected from the cut. Over 200,000 of the UK’s poorest pensioners will now see incomes shrink as the money they receive to stay in their homes is reduced and they will be forced to make up the difference out of meagre pensions.
How much their income will shrink is open to question. A DWP Equalities Analysis predicted they will lose on average about £3 a week (PDF). For those in high rent areas this is likely to be a woeful understatement.
Around 20,000 people over 65 are currently claiming LHA in London. Rents are soaring in the capital, with one estimate claiming they have risen by 7.9% in just one year. If this continues then a pensioner living in a private sector flat and claiming the LHA rate for central London could see their income reduced by up to £30 a week over the next two years.
Just like the victims of the Benefit Cap, these pensioners will be socially cleansed from the capital. Some of them may have lived here their whole lives. If they choose to stay they may face homelessness as rents soar. This will place even more pressure on Local Authorities to provide one bedroom flats at a time of desperate shortage of smaller properties due to the bedroom tax. The housing crisis in London is set to get worse, and George Osborne is directly responsible.
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