11 OCTOBER 1975, Page 30

Square deal for senior citizens

Bernard Hollowood

It's quite possible that the Government's index-linked savings certificates will revolutionise the distribution of wealth in Britain. Though the scheme is available only to men over sixty-five and women over sixty and is limited to a maximum investment of £500 per person I can see a time coming when pensioners are the only people left with any real liquid capital.

Already savings certificates bought in June have considerably appreciated in value, and if inflation proceeds at the present appalling rate those savings will be doubled in monetary terms inside three years and become astronomical within twenty years.

I am being pessimistic, of course. We are hoping that the Government's measures to tackle inflation will be successful and bring down the rate to a single figure within three years, but there's a fifty-fifty chance at least that we shall be disappointed.

So it could be that in twenty years only people with index-linked savings will have liquid purchasing power equivalent to £500 at June's prices, while the rest of us will be stuck, with mountains of useless paper money.

It would be splendid to see pensioners in the money and as a result earning the respect of all and sundry. For a long time our system of income and wealth distribution has been all wrong: we've favoured those at work and penalised those who should have earned reasonable affluence through a lifetime of labour, cerebration and responsibility, those whose ergs have all been expended in the national interest.

In an ideal society (very well, my ideal society) senior citizens would receive state pensions of something like £10,000 at today's values and would thus be able to live out their remaining years — only about four on average in the case of male pensioners and about fifteen years of retirement per female aged sixty — in what physical comfort money can buy.

It is, I think, disgraceful that senior citizens should be treated as paupers and given half-price 'hair-cuts, occasional free issues of cigarettes or mutton, cheap tickets on the buses and at the cinema and similar pourboires. Think of the respect that would be engendered by a really lavish pension ....

The scene is the living-room of 138 Aboukir Street, Coketown. Mr and Mrs Simkins and their three children, Andrex, Sorbo and Pedig

ree, are at tea, high tea. They sit with knives and forks raised in preparation for attack on plates of fish and chips.

"Wait for it, Pedigree!" said Mr Simkin. "Your Gran and Grandpa aren't back from bingo yet. And you know perfectly well that we can't start without them."

"But the chips will be getting cold," said Andrex, a youth with shoulder-length brown hair and acne.

"Show a little more respect, boy," said Mrs Simkin. "Gran and Gramp are heads of this household and it would be a diabolical liberty to fill your face before they've joined us."

"And while I'm about it," said Simkins, "I'll thank you lot to pipe down when Gran's deciding which TV programme to watch. After all, she pays the licence and the repairs, and if she doesn't like Star Trek, that's her business and you'll have to put up with it."

"D'you think Gramp would help me with my homework?" said Sorbo. "He's red hot on algebra."

"Maybe he will, maybe he won't," said Mrs S. "It all depends whether he's going to the greyhounds tonight. He mentioned the possibility at breakfast."

"But he's been to the dogs four times this week already!" said Sorbo.

"And why not?"

"Well, he's probably lost a packet and we all know there'll be no holiday at Torremolinos for us this year unless Gran and Gramp can stump up," said Pedigree.

"I don't like your language," said Mr S. "Watch it!"

There was the sound of a car door.

"That'll be Gran and Gramp now," said Mrs S. "Quick, Andrex, pop out and pay for their taxi: there's some change in the teapot."

"Good thinking, ma," said Sim kin. "The old uns appreciate little acts of kindness."

A few seconds later Gran and Grandpa entered the room and the children ran to help them with their coats.

"D'you want to wash?" said Mrs S. "Tea's ready and piping hot." "No," said Grandpa. 4-we're clean enough. We've only just left the sauna. The Bingo hall was

stifling and we thought we'd freshen up. By the way, we've got a

present or two for you." There was a Laura Ashley dress for ma, a power tool for dad and cricket boxes for the boys.

"But, Gramp," said Mrs S, "we can't let you do this. You can't afford it, not on your joint income of £20,000. Anyway, what's it all in aid of? Are we celebrating or something?"

"I'll say we are," said Gran.

"Don't you realise it's the tenth anniversary of the issue of index-linked savings for pensioners. We've dipped into our capital, and why not? We can't live for ever."

"Oh, don't talk like that, Gran," said Pedigree. "Where should be we without you?"

"Gran, darling, you must live for ever for our sakes," said Sorbo.

"You don't want us to slip back into social category C or D, do you?" "You must be famished after

your sauna," said Andrex. "Mum, can't Gran and Gramp have their

plaice and chips?"

"When we've all thanked them for the presents, for being with us, for their constant financial help and their wise investment in index-linked securities," said Mr S.

"Good," said Gran. "I'm glad it's plaice. And you'll be able to have Star Trek on tonight because Grandpa and I are going to the Casino for a few goes at vingt-et-un. But we'll be back by ten o'clock. Mrs. Thatcher, the PM, is on the box and we want to hear whether she'll improve on Wilson's deal for senior citizens. Pass the salt, Pedigree!"

"Oh, sorry, Gran," said Pedigree. "Will you say grace, Grandpa?" said Gran. "Or shall I?"

"It's your turn, dearest," said Grandpa.