Injustice in pensioner poverty not tackled – Kings speech consumer credit industry reaction

8th November 2023

Several proposed reforms were announced by King Charles as he laid out the government’s priorities for the year ahead at the State Opening of Parliament.

Joanna Elson CBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age said “With more than two million older people living in poverty and at least another million living on the edge, systemic change is needed, and unfortunately, the government didn’t reveal anything in today’s King Speech that will tackle the injustice of pensioner poverty, which has been gradually rising for a decade.”

“Inflation is still extremely high and causing misery for people on low incomes in later life up and down the country. Our helpline receives regular calls from frightened older people making desperate cutbacks just to get by. We have heard harrowing stories of people sitting in the dark or washing less to save money, one person even resorted to eating dog food because it’s less costly. As older people in financial hardship brace for another tough winter, the UK government has failed to recognise their plight by not setting out how it will tackle stubbornly high costs into next year and beyond.”

“Some relief will be felt today by older private renters, as the Government has committed to progressing the Renters Reform Bill. This should provide this growing group of older people with much needed security and protection. It’s vital that a ban on Section 21 evictions is included in this bill and implemented quickly, as there are currently thousands of older people at risk of homelessness because of this cruel law. The UK government must urgently act and pass this bill.”

“We also want to see the Government protect the long-term needs of current and future older people by creating a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing. This champion could amplify the voices of people in later life and ensure their rights and needs are taken into account by the government. Today would have also been the right time to announce plans to introduce a single energy social tariff. Older people living on low to modest incomes must be protected in the long term from future hikes in energy prices.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said “In the last King’s Speech before a General Election, the government has failed to grasp the scale of the housing emergency. Decades of inaction has left us with runaway rents, rising evictions and record levels of homelessness and Ministers are blaming everyone but themselves.
“We’ve already seen the government play politics with the Renters (Reform) Bill and give in to a small minority of landlords on its own backbench who want to see it kicked into the long grass. Until the Bill is passed and implemented, 11 million private renters will remain living in constant fear of being evicted from their home without cause.”

“Instead of looking for scapegoats, the government should be pushing forward the solutions that will end the housing emergency for good – building social homes, fixing private renting and making it more affordable. To protect people from homelessness this winter, the Chancellor must unfreeze housing benefit in the upcoming Autumn Statement.“

Energy UK’s Chief Executive Emma Pinchbeck said “It was good news for the industry to hear the speech highlighting the Government’s intention to attract record levels of investment in renewables and speed up grid connections. Both are essential to increasing our supply of clean, cheaper homegrown power in line with the Government’s ambitious targets and we now need further detail on how it plans to deliver these.”

“While there has been much focus on new oil and gas licences – and while these will continue to play an important role during the energy transition – they will not lower customer bills or significantly improve the UK’s energy security. So the Government’s priority must be to reduce our dependence on gas and the exposure to volatile international energy markets that the King’s Speech referred to.”

“The volatility of global gas markets has driven up bills, which will remain a struggle for millions of customers this winter, and it’s only by investing in clean technology, energy efficiency, and the infrastructure of a modern energy system that we can make a real and permanent difference to cutting the costs of energy for people and businesses and bolstering our energy security.

“The energy industry will continue to work with the Government and help deliver priorities on the clean energy transition and on grid infrastructure with the urgency they warrant. We hope that together with the forthcoming Autumn Statement, the Government will set out a bold and comprehensive plan to achieve our ambitions and boost our economy in the face of increasing global competition for investment in clean technology and jobs.  We also continue to call for targeted support this winter for those customers in most need of help with their bills.”