Battleground Yorkshire: Older voters need to realise how good they have it

In this week’s spotlight issue, Mason Boycott-Owen speaks to Liz Emerson from the Intergenerational Foundation (IF) about how bad young people’s prospects are in the UK compared to their parents and grandparents.

Young people’s frustration in politics has a lot to do with how they have been overlooked for the main parties for so long, to the extent that many question whether their voices and votes matter at the next election.

For some this reared its head once again following a report that suggested women born in the 1950s are entitled to billions in compensation due to changes in the state pension age which they were not aware of.

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“I am a woman in my 50s,” says Liz Emerson, who heads up the Intergenerational Foundation charity, adding “I’m closer to the WASPI women than I am to young people”.

Liz EmersonLiz Emerson
Liz Emerson

“I am outraged and insulted that a group of over-entitled middle-class women think they can call for compensation when all the government was trying to do was to level the playing field between women and men of the same age.”

The debate over the increasing wealth of pensioners is linked directly to the dour outlook for young people in the UK, and is quickly becoming a case of the haves versus the have-nots.

“What older generations need to understand is that the tables have very much turned since they were young people,” says Ms Emerson.

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The average under-35-year-old needs to spend two thirds of their income on essential spending, meaning that the idea of saving for a house is very much a pipedream for many.

Meanwhile, older generations have access to universal benefits from the system they profited from when it was created for them in post-war Britain.

“That wealth is largely tied up in pensions and housing,” says Ms Emerson, adding: “This is where that intergenerational conflict is starting to arise.”

“The deal that they were being offered was really over-generous for where we are today. There’s a massive shortfall in what their expectations and entitlements are and where the money is.

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“Successive governments are not telling the truth to older people, they’re still telling them they will have access to all these goodies as they reach a certain age. That comes with a cost and it is falling on younger generations through higher tax rates.”

Previous research by IF has found that 3 million out of the 12 million over-65 in the country are living in millionaire households.

Many older people baulk at the idea that property is wealth, but Ms Emerson says that this shows they are “completely out of touch” with how wealth works today in the UK.

Despite the decent position many older people are starting at when they come to reach retirement, they are still entitled to a large set of subsidies.

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“It’s completely bizarre. In London, travel concessions are extraordinary. We found that 1 in 4 people over 60, who are below state pension age, are going to work for free alongside their younger colleagues.”

The triple lock for the state pension goes up by 8.5 per cent this year, increasing 10.1 per cent last year. Meanwhile working-age benefits go up by 6.7 per cent. Students with 7.7 interest rates on their loans, their living cost loans are going up by 2.8 per cent.

The Government is not doing the “brave thing” and addressing this, says Ms Emerson, but feels that despite the parties appeasing over-65s because they always vote, she feels this election will be different.

“This election is going to be about housing, because if you are under the age of 50, half of you are going to be renting into old age.

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Part of this will be talking about the Green Belt, which she says is “strangling the economic prospects of our kids and our grandkids.”

“Our plea to older people is to vote in the interests of your children and grandchildren because they need your help.

“My plea to younger generations and younger listeners is you need to come together generationally and vote in your generation's interests as well, because that's what the grey vote does very, very well.”

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