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Government unveils new state pension details

(Update) The government has released details of a new flat-rate pension of around £140 a week – but probably worth £155 by the time it is introduced in 2015-16.

Government unveils new state pension details

(Update) Details of a new flat-rate pension of around £140 a week, but probably worth £155 by the time it is expected to be introduced in 2015-16, were unveiled today by pensions ministers Steve Webb and Iain Duncan Smith. It will replace the existing system of a basic pension, currently £102.15 a week for a single person, which can be topped up to £137.35 a week with means-tested pension credit as from 11 April. 

Modernising the state pension

The green paper, ‘A state pension for the 21st Century,’ sets out the options on how to simplify the system for future pensioners. ‘Over the years small changes to the state pension system have turned what started as a relatively simple contributory system into a complex mess, leaving people utterly confused as to what the state pension means for them,’ explained secretary of state for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith. ‘We have to send out a clear message across both the welfare and pension system – you will be better off in work than on benefits and you will be better off in retirement if you save.’ 

The green paper considers either acceleration of existing reforms so that the state pension evolves into a two-tier flat-rate structure by 2020 rather than the early 2030s, or a more radical reform to a single-tier flat-rate pension set above the level of the pension credit standard minimum guarantee. 

The report seems to favour the more radical second option combining basic state pension and state second pension into one single-tier state pension. Under the second option, future pensioners with at least 30 qualifying years would receive the same flat-rate pension currently estimated at £140 a week – with this payment being set above the basic level of support provided by pension credit. There would be a minimum qualification of seven years of national insurance (NI) contributions or credits. Everyone would qualify individually – whether single, married, divorced or widowed and there would be no special rules for marriage, bereavement or divorce. Both options could be designed to impose no extra costs.

Replaces earnings-related pensions

Under the more radical second option, the payment currently estimated at around £140 to all future pensioners would be funded by ending the state second pension, abolishing means-tested savings credit and introducing a seven-year minimum qualifying rule.  Contributions to earnings-related, top-up pensions such as the current state second pension (S2P) and earlier state earnings-related pension (Serps) as well as graduated contributions would be honoured until the new flat-rate pension is introduced. Those already in retirement and receiving pensions would remain unaffected by the changes – although they will find any earnings-related pensions will in future increase by the lower consumer price index (CPI) each year, rather than the usually higher retail prices index (RPI). The latest inflation figures for February show CPI hit an annual rate of 4.4% while RPI moved to 5.5%.

A few high earners will be worse off than if they had been able to continue contributing to the top up pensions. Some with the maximum contributions could currently be drawing as much as £150 a week on top of their basic pension of £102.15 in earnings related pension – although to qualify for extra pension at that rate they would have been higher rate taxpayers all their working life and paid the maximum in NI contributions.

But the vast majority of individuals will benefit. Some three million self-employed people will also be better off with a higher flat-rate pension as they are not currently eligible to top up their pension through S2P or earlier earnings-related schemes unless they have previously spent time as an employee. 

Integration with Nest

The changes will be introduced to coincide with the roll out of Nest, the new National Employment Savings Trust pension in which all employees will be auto-enrolled – although they currently retain the ability to opt out. This begins to be introduced for the largest companies in 2012 and by 2016 all employees should be enrolled in the scheme. Contributions will be phased in to reach 3% of qualifying earnings paid by the employer, 4% by the employee with a 1% tax rebate by 2017.

The discontinuance of mean-tested benefits for pensioners and replacement with the new flat-rate pension removes most of the incentive to opt out of Nest. Had the reforms not been introduced anyone on average earnings or less would have been no better off by joining Nest. They would simply have started paying for a pension that was no better than means-tested benefits – which are non-contributory and therefore ‘free’. Half of all pensioners are currently eligible for means-tested benefits and a higher flat-rate pension will benefit the estimated 1.6 million pensioners who are currently eligible but do not claim.

The ability to ‘contract out’ of the state earnings-related S2P will also be removed at the same time. Many employees and employers get a rebate on NI contributions because their S2P top-up pension is contracted out to their company final salary pension scheme.  However, the removal of the contracted out rebate is likely to mean the end of final salary linked pension schemes in the private sector.  They were already proving a drain on companies’ financial resources and many have been closed to new entrants or new contributions and the removal of the rebate will make them even more expensive to provide.

Women and carers to benefit

The new flat-rate pension will be welcomed by most as it is much fairer than the current system which discriminated against women who stay at home to look after children or elderly relatives. Many never qualified for a full pension and were too proud to claim means-tested benefits. The breaks in mothers' and carers’ NI contribution records means the average basic state pension for women currently stands at just £70.26, compared with £83.74 for men. Women's average payment from the state second pension, and Serps, is just £15.50 a week, little more than half the £28.71 paid to men.  

Pension reforms will rapidly be followed by increases in the retirement age, due to be equalised at 65 by 2018. On 6 April 2010, the state pension age for women started to increase gradually from 60 to 65, to match men’s by 2018, moving to 66 for everyone between November 2018 and April 2020. It has not yet been announced whether further rises to 67 and 68, that are not due until 2036 and 2046 respectively, will be brought forward but the report envisages regular reviews of state pension age to take account of increased life expectancy.

33 comments so far. Why not have your say?


Apr 04, 2011 at 19:42

If I've got this right,I will not qualify for this,if I'm 65 in 2014,despite having worked and paid NI for 50 years unbroken.

Yet ,apparently,someone retiring in 2016 who may never have paid NI in their life and may only have shipped up in Britain in the past few years will qualify for the full amount.

How the **** is that fair?

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P Williams

Apr 04, 2011 at 20:08

The robbing b*****s .

You pay 41 years of NI contributions plus 9 years of SERPS - ALL at max rate - and they say tough - we are giving a level pension to the dossers who have never paid a higher rate stamp or even worked the full stretch.

Polticians are just lying b***S what is fair is .....DON't work then you DON't pay.

Then when you reach retirement age having worked all your life in the private sector with spells out of work and a family - you get robbed.

Fairness - they don't know the meaning of the word.

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Bernard Crompton

Apr 04, 2011 at 20:26

I was going to put a comment on here about the apparent unfairness of these proposals but sandy and p Williams seem to have done it for me. Looking at the various articles on the proposals on a number of websites it does not seem to be totally clear about existing pensioners qualifying for the new higher flat rate pension. However it does appear to me that existing pensioners who have paid NI contributions for 44 or more years may not get it, whereas in the future people who have contributed much less will get the higher pension. If this is the case it seems very unfair and the Government can probably say goodbye to about 4 million votes at the next General Election from existing pensioners.

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Graham Williams

Apr 04, 2011 at 20:55

You have overlooked the fact that women who did not contract out of the pension element of NI are credited with theyears that they were raising children in receipt of Child Benefit.

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Lorna Bourke

Apr 04, 2011 at 21:11

However unfair it might seem the reality is that half of all pensioners already qualify for means tested benefits - which are non-contributory and paid out of taxation. All the flat rate pension will do is combine the two and introduce a higher flat rate pension at the same cost as the existing pension plus means tested benefits. The report is adamant that total costs will not increase.

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2nd class citizen

Apr 04, 2011 at 21:14

I could not agree more with with the comments of Sandy.

I am already a member of the 2nd class citizens club i.e. Already Retired.

It looks as though in 2016 we will be relegated to 3rd class citizens.

I also paid N.I. contributions for 50 years to end up with a basic pension and a small income from Serps.

This morning on TV, pensions minister Steve Webb completely avoided questions put to him about those of us already retired and those due to retire before 2016.

Does this government really think that they will get away with this.

Steve Webb even had the gall to say that they will soon be introducing pension increases in line with earnings.

"Big Deal" if Margaret Thatcher had not broken that link during her time in office then todays basic pension would have been nearer £130 per week and more like the pension paid by most European countries.

All we can hope for is that another person such as Lord Rix will emerge and take up the fight on our behalf.

In the meantime let us hope that the best part of 12 million pensioners will show exactly what we think of this governments proposals at the next election. Oh! I nearly forgot--perhaps not 12 million as many will have already died from hypothermia as our heating allowance is gradually taken away from us.

Once a Lib Dem voter but never, never again. Thank you Nick Clegg and Vince Cable for your magnificent input in helping this goverment push through these sort of policies.

How right was Harriet Harman when she said that you had completely sacrificed your principals in exchange for those Cabinet Ministers perks.

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Apr 04, 2011 at 23:37

Graham W

Are you sure that this relates only to women who have not contracted out?

Even those who have contracted out may receive HRP, if they are in receipt of child benefit, I believe.

What will happen in the future to HRP relating to childcare if child benefit is withdrawn due to high earnings of a partner, for example?

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da hay

Apr 05, 2011 at 00:07

his is what needs to be dealt with in the future, by the realisation that pension fund money belongs to the employee subscribers and not any government or company. A pension contribution is part of the employees wage deferred until a later age. The company or government making a contribution to the employees fund is making a contribution as part of the employees wage and no longer belongs to the company or government.

my generation has seen the pension funds robbed, be they state pension, government employee, or company employee. this has left a lot of the elderly with inadequate provision for their retirement years, and consequently some have to rely on pension credit benefits, charity or help from their family and children.

to be put in such a position when in the early years, one made what was promised to be the right outcome for each individuals retirement, is demeaning (and goes against the principle of what I understand as being human community (rights))

what has also seemed to have happened during my generations working life, is the lack of understanding of the Charitable status of the state pension (so called). for the mechanism of the state pension was to spread the contributions over the working population so that those whom hit disasters in their life could receive at least a two thirds of average wage in the elderly years, which would give them the ability and dignity to look after themselves.

this was promised in the early years of my working life by the then Harold Wilson prime minister, who promised that the elderly would receive a two thirds of average wage state pension, with those whom during their working life could contribute more receive a graduated increase from part of that extra contribution, the balance being set to support those in our community whom had missed out through some lifetime hardship.

in the 80's and 90's, the treasury and others saw a wonderful pot of gold, called the state pension fund (and I include private pension funds), and they could not keep their sticky hands off it. yes I am angry, and I believe so are a lot of other elderly people.


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the observer

Apr 05, 2011 at 01:09

I become 65 in 2014 and would have the option to draw the state pension at the old low rate. However I am in the fortunate position of not being under any pressure to take up the old state pension, so should I delay claiming my pension by a few years to get the new higher rate?

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Jonathan Court

Apr 05, 2011 at 01:20

I am forced to pay 10% of my gross income in Class 1 National Insurance Contributions, anything up to £5000 a year, and have done since coming to the country some 10 plus years ago, please can anyone tell if this is just another tax or do I get anything for this, I am fit and well and rarely visit a doctor .

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Chris Powell

Apr 05, 2011 at 08:02

National insurance was and always was a tax and the labour government spent the money. There is no reason why anyone would want to save for their old age because under the labour government if you spend all your money they will be there to hand out benefits that is wrong.

Those people who have paid NI all their lives like myself have just being paying a tax because no government actually had the brains to ring fence it and if you have not already herd then I will tell you there is no more money left- Labour wasted it and unless we get serious pension reform we will follow the Greeks, Irish etc.

The Unions ruined the UK in the 70's and there complete and utter lacks of any think like a brain will do it again. We are not an emerging country we cannot just grow are way out of massive debts. We have to tackle the unfunded debts we already have such as state pensions and 'unfunded public sector pensions'.

I say to all you pensioners moaning about paying NI and having a low pension that this will only get worse and unless we can stop the 'public sector workers' getting an undeserving excessive pension promised by incompetent governments then we are doomed. I bet the retired policeman at 51 or doctor at 60 who is still doing consultancy work are having a nice time!

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2nd class citizen

Apr 05, 2011 at 09:10

Chris Powell You are completely missing the point. Can you not understand that todays pensioners are complaining that in 2016 a married couple of pensionable age could possibly be receiving £60 less per week than those who retire after 2016.

We are not complaining about the pensions paid to policemen, doctors etc, nor the National Insurance contributions we have made throughout our working lives but simply about the inequality of future basic state pension. Come 2016 why should we be paid less than our retired next door neighbour just because we are older than them. No doubt Chris Powell, your retirement date will be after the changes come into force.

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Red Devil

Apr 05, 2011 at 09:27

2nd class citizen: Completely agree with your first post and, yes, Chris Powell is soooo missing the point he should ask himself some serious Qs.

I'm 65 in 2014 and have got so angry about this I think I'm going to campaign for a voluntary euthanasia programme for all Tories and Lib Dems. I think I've blown a head gasket and will probably join them. Or, to be more positive, should we bring back conscription for the over 65's and form a Dad's Army to lay siege to London? Maybe those nice Libyans we've just saved will supply us with arms?

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Apr 05, 2011 at 09:34

I immediately thought maybe those of us who will be retiring between now and 2015 could perhaps hold off taking the state pension and get the higher rate plus the higher rate paid for delaying taking it.

But somehow I don't think it will be as simple as that and the Government will not allow it.

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Lorna Bourke

Apr 05, 2011 at 11:02

We don't yet know the details of how the new flat rate pension will be introduced so it may, or may not, be possible to defer retirement in order to qualify for the higher flat rate. It seems likely however that in order to contain costs government would be unlikely to allow such a move.

Whilst sympathising with those who will fall the wrong side of any cut off date for introduction of the new flat rate scheme, life is unfair and it is a mistake to believe that NI contributions have funded your pension and other benefits. It may be possible to phase in the new flat rate pension but the fact remains that NI contributions have never been enough to fund all the benefits and a large proportion of the cost of benefits is paid out of general taxation. Some 50% of pensioners already have incomes so low that they qualify for means-tested non-contributory benefits. The sooner the government admits that NI is just another - very unfair - income tax and combines the two, the better. Better off individuals must pay their fair share and at the moment they don't.

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Altogether now

Apr 05, 2011 at 13:09

Sorry Lorna but your last points are just wrong. 40 and 50% tax rates apply to 'better off individuals'. If tax and NI are combined then ALL pensioners will be hit with a minimum 30-40% tax rate.

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Michael Crockett

Apr 05, 2011 at 13:11

Contrary to many of the posters here, I believe a lot of people who retire under the new proposed scheme could be worse off than those retiring today. Certainly this could be the case for people who have earned a significant amount of contracted out pension.

On page 31 of the document 'A state pension for the 21st century' (link at top of this page) there is this paragraph:

'Calculating entitlement to the new pension taking account of periods spent contracted out of the State Second Pension in a way that is fair, but delivers simplicity and clarity as quickly as possible: This would mean that during the transition many would receive their single-tier pension from a combination of their state and contracted out scheme, as happens now. This means they would receive less than the currently estimated £140 directly from their state pension. We estimate that around half of pensioners could have an offset applied to their single tier pension by around 2050. Further detail is provided in the box on page 32.24'

I have some contracted out pension and I think I could be better off reaching 65 before 2016.

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Red Devil

Apr 05, 2011 at 13:17


You say 'life is unfair' - which means 'tough shit, I don't give a toss because no legislation is perfect and I can't be arsed to think of a solution'. I find that kind of attitude appalling..... How CityWire can employ you when that's how you dismiss important flaws or contradictions in financial proposals is beyond me... You completely miss the point. People like me catch it both ways because we've saved - yet this totally contradicts one of the key purposes of this proposed legislation. Beings means-testable at 65 means I would only get basic state pension for the rest of my life while someone with only a few years in this country will get about £40 a week more - ditto my wife - that's a lot of money! Melding NICs and income tax means I will pay 60% more tax at 65 on my very limited SIPP income than before that legislation. If you can't think your way round that, you've no business being in financial journalism...

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Apr 05, 2011 at 13:38

Lorna you are quite right that life is unfair but isn’t that the reason for voting in elections. Surely no one votes to make life less fair for himself or herself. People are flocking into this country from all parts of the world just get access to a pension for which they have never contributed and will be eligible for 50% more than Brits who have contributed all their working lives. Some of these same people, once getting access to a British pension return to live their lives in their home countries and our government doesn’t seem concerned about that but appear to be very troubled when comes to being fair to tax paying Brits.

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David Glynn

Apr 05, 2011 at 14:18

It is disappointing to read that this government talks the talk on fairness but fails entirely to deliver it through its proposals on pension provision.

I find two sentences in Lorna Bourke's report of interest:.

The first is that Iain Duncan Smith claims that ‘We have to send out a clear message across both the welfare and pension system – you will be better off in work than on benefits .........’ But fails to do so because, as I read it as far as state pension is concerned, there is no benefit in being in work and paying your taxes - at the end of the day you will receive the same flat rate pension as someone who hasn't worked and has been credited with their contributions.

And as a further point I am totally in tune with what others have already said about the inequity of someone retiring in 2014 after a lifetime of work and receiving a lesser pension that someone retiring in similar circumstances a few weeks later. Some phasing in the introduciton might go some way to mitigating this unfairness. In employers DB schemes previously earned benefits are protected not tossed away and replaced unilaterally - a similar provision could be used here.

The second is that the loss of contracting out rights for employers pension schemes will be a further nail in the coffin for these schemes in the private sector as empoyers will incur unwelcome additional costs in providing the benefit. In doing so it is inevitably going to add to the gulf in pension provision between the private and the public sectors. And so the mantra "......and you will be better off in retirement if you save." has no value either

I do take issue with Lorna's comments above about NI not funding benefits. It has long been the case that all benefits are paid out of general taxation and that most people view NI as tax in another form. But NI contribution is the means by which full state pension is achieved - 30 years of contribution currently. So there still remains a clear link between NI and pension.

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Apr 05, 2011 at 16:03

It is the date of your 65th birthday that determinates whether or not you will get the new proposed pension or not.You can defer taking your state pension for as long as you like it will not make a blind bit of difference, this was stated on national tv by the minister.

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michael coxson

Apr 05, 2011 at 17:35

Did not expect to be treated fairly by a conservative government did you ? you only have to look at the people involved to see they are relishing giving us all a good thrashing, Just look at OSBOURN,S face???????????????

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Apr 05, 2011 at 19:37

I reach pension age in 2013 and according to my Pension Forecast I will be better off under the old scheme than the new. My Additional Pension (graduated, SERPS and S2P) more than make up for the difference between the old and new levels of state pension. I can only assume that those who are complaining about recieving a lower pension before 2016 must have been contracted out in which case any comparisons should take into account the uplift in the private pension from the contracted out funds. ( I know contracting out was a bit of a bum deal but, as always, life's a bitch, unless you're a banker or some such.) I haven't read the actual documents but nothing I have heard suggests my position has changed. Have I missed something I should be worried about?

I seem to recall that Ian Duncan-Smith said of his original proposals that nobody would actually be worse off under the new scheme than they would have been under the old. Am I mistaken or is this just another 'politicians promise'?

Red Devil

I think (hope) you mean compulsory euthanasia.

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Peter Wilkinson

Apr 05, 2011 at 19:43

So much for being a Post War Baby Boomer >1949 - shafted again!

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Apr 05, 2011 at 20:59

I must admit that I have never understood pensions and all the different types of N.H.I contributions , contracting in/out etc, class 1, class 2. At least with this new system, I will know exactly how much I will get and will no longer feel annoyed at all the people who never saved and then got a state pension top up. I did put a little into a private pension years ago but under the old system would have been no better offf than if I hadn't saved and then had the minimum top up. I for one like what the government is doing despite the fact that it will not apply to my slightly older husband.

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Paul Eden

Apr 05, 2011 at 22:53

The new proposed flat rate pension is certainly an improvement on the old and understandably a great many persons who do not qualify for it will be bitterly disappointed and call it unfair.

But was it really possible to change the existing system for the better in this or any other way and to such a great extent (at no extra cost to the exchequer), without being unfair to a lot of people?

Could we have continued with the old system indefinitely which would have meant even more people in the future suffering terribly low pensions? Or don't we really wish a previous government had had the vision and commonsense to introduce this new system a long time ago? In this latter case a great many people who will not benefit from the new flat rate pension would be now enjoying a better pension.

On balance I can't see how it could be done in any other way. Allowing people to defer their retirement so they are able to qualify for the new flat rate pension would be welcome and perhaps the government should be explaining why such a move is not possible. This, especially in view of the fact that pensioners have lost so much since Margaret Thatcher stopped linking pension increases to earnings - and have lost more still since New Labour began attacking people's pension funds and drawing substantial taxes from them. So far there has been no mention of ending this tax on pension funds.

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May 25, 2011 at 12:00

Hi, could someone clarify this for me please? It seems a bit of a minefield!

Under the existing arrangements any private pension I may have is taken into account when determining topping up my state pension to the minimum of £137.50.

Under the new arrangements proposed, would everyone get £140 and the whole of their private pension too?

An example may help explain what I mean!

Private pension is say £100 pw, state pension £65 (insufficient contribs)

Current system would pay me £165

Under new system, would I get both, ie £140 basic + £100 priv = £240?

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Michael Thompson

Sep 24, 2011 at 20:01

The pensions and earnings link was cut by Thatcher in the 80's.

At the same time Thatcher reduced income tax and NI contributions on the working population.

So for 30 years our pensioners have struggled on a below par state pension and no one blinks an eye.

Now that the shit has hit the fan, the working population are worried, about themselves.

Hang your heads in shame you Brit's.

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Michael Thompson

Sep 26, 2011 at 10:09

Millions of UK pensioners have been living on a low state pension and means tested handouts for 30 years because Thatcher cut the state pension link with male average earnings in 1980.

Now the chickens have come home to roos for everybody else.

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Michael Thompson

Sep 26, 2011 at 14:01

Although excess winter mortality is associated with low temperatures, conditions directly relating to cold, such as hypothermia, are not the main cause of excess winter mortality. The majority of additional winter deaths are caused by cerebrovascular diseases, ischaemic heart disease and respiratory diseases.

Excess winter mortality in England and Wales, 1986/86 to 2009/10

Winter Excess winter deaths Deaths per day Deaths per hour

1986/1987 26,370 220 9

1987/1988 32,970 275 11

1988/1989 21,160 176 7

1989/1990 47,200 393 16

1990/1991 37,940 316 13

1991/1992 34,850 290 12

1992/1993 25,650 214 9

1993/1994 25,900 216 9

1994/1995 27,290 227 9

1995/1996 40,190 335 14

1996/1997 47,690 397 17

1997/1998 22,900 191 8

1998/1999 46,840 390 16

1999/2000 48,440 404 17

2000/2001 24,840 207 9

2001/2002 27,230 227 9

2002/2003 23,970 200 8

2003/2004 23,450 195 8

2004/2005 31,640 264 11

2005/2006 25,270 211 9

2006/2007 23,740 198 8

2007/2008 24,690 206 9

2008/2009 36,450 304 13

2009/2010 25,400 212 9

Source: Office for National Statistics

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david bool

Mar 21, 2012 at 16:56

i retire on 02/05/2016 with a state pension forecast of £172 which includes my contributions to serps, under the new rules does this mean i will have to settle for a total state pension of £140 instead !!!

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Phil Eaves

May 14, 2012 at 07:12

The unfairness of this decision is evident. But what about the legality, is there a law firm who are prepared to represent the thousands of disadvantaged people and start a lobby group. How can we allow the government to get away with theft.

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Les Jeffery

May 26, 2012 at 11:52

I am 100% certain the following is the few of many others in this country.

It seems the government plan for a £140 per week pension is getting closer to becoming a reality. I am 64 years of age and my wife is 59 years. It would seem that neither of us will get the new pension, which means that between the two of us we will get approx £3432 per annum less than someone a bit younger. We have both worked all our lives, not having been on benefits or any other income support and are still working.

I cannot believe that the government can do this to the likes of ourselves and others. In fact words fail me. We will see people we now who are a bit younger and basically have put little into the pot collecting the better pension.

Also there are many pensioners out there who would benefit a great deal for a bit better income and they are going to sit there on less than the younger ones.

I am surprised that there is not more unrest about this issue, or have people not cottoned on yet ?

I am interested to hear your views on this extremely unjust proposal.

Who ever dreamed up this is obviously on a better income than most and probably won’t notice a shortfall of approx £3500.00. But a lot of us will.


Les Jeffery.

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