Guernsey Press

‘Let’s look at pushing pension age past 70’

TREASURY lead Mark Helyar wants the States to consider pushing the island’s retirement age beyond 70, and charging fees to use more public services.

Deputy Mark Helyar. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31934528)

He told this week's Scrutiny public hearing that an expected dramatic increase in the number of pensioners would make the island’s finances unsustainable without significant reforms.

The age at which the States’ old age pension can be drawn is already being increased to 70 gradually by the year 2049.

Asked by the Scrutiny panel if he wanted to reopen debate about the future retirement age, Deputy Helyar said: ‘Yes, I do. Absolutely. I think all major western democracies are looking at the same thing.’

But Employment & Social Security president Peter Roffey insisted he would oppose such a move.

‘I see neither the need nor the justification at this stage,’ he said.

‘70 is at the top of the range of state pension ages around the world. Going further would be a very dramatic step, particularly when recent data shows a levelling off of life expectancy.

The UK government has just delayed plans to take its pension age to 68.

‘There will be plenty of time for our successors to consider such a move in the decades ahead, if it is really required, before we reach the current target age of 70.

‘Personally, I think going further would risk spawning a tidal wave of claims for long-term sickness or invalidity benefits among those forced to work to, say, 75.’

Deputy Roffey said that increasing the retirement age faster than planned would be ‘too big a breach of promise’ to islanders.

Deputy Helyar told the Scrutiny hearing that he was also still open to means-testing the States’ pension, despite Policy & Resources more or less ruling it out.

‘Really it’s to engender a conversation about benefits and whether everybody should receive them.

'I think there is a case to be said for targeting benefits,’ said Deputy Helyar.

He also appealed for States committees to charge for more of their services used by the public. He cited healthcare and elderly care as two examples.

‘We want to encourage committees where they can charge for services... or charge more for them,’ said Deputy Helyar.

‘There’s a lot we’re providing for islanders at the moment effectively free of charge irrespective of your means.

'We need to start thinking about how people can contribute towards that because we can’t continue to afford it.

‘When the only other option is to stop a service altogether... I think it would be a better option to charge some people for it.’