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Nigel Rock Addresses Older People's Forum in Kenilworth

March 28, 2010 10:18 PM
nigel rock discusses issues affecting older people

Nigel discusses issues affecting older people

Nigel Rock, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the new constituency of Kenilworth & Southam, attended a hustings event in Kenilworth on Friday organised by the Older Peoples' Association.

Here is the text of his opening remarks:-

"Many things that affect older people are no different to those that affect the rest of the population. We all want prosperity and happiness; to live without fear of crime; for our country and borders to be secure; to protect our democratic way of life; and have a country that fulfils its place in the world. We want the best for our offspring and future generations and to protect the planet that is our home.

"We are all different people even if we are all in the same age group. Not everyone is the same or thinks the same but as we get older there are some things that concern us a bit more than others. Foremost amongst these is health - --- affordable health and social care. With all its flaws, the NHS is a fantastic asset for this country. With more older people in the population, and a squeeze on the public finances how can health and long-term social care be best provided? I was very pleased to hear that the three main parties' spokesmen had got together to work collaboratively to come up with a long-term vision for a long-term problem. I was equally disappointed - in fact more than disappointed - that this fell apart due to points scoring by the Conservatives, who felt the need to break the protocol with a silly poster campaign.

"Complexity in public services is one of my hobby horses - there are far too many conflicting and complex regulations which hinder more than help in many walks of life. Usually this plays to the advantage of those that know how to work the system, sometimes in an abusive way, and they win out at the expense of those in real need.

"I understand that public money is tight and this will hit most us all in one way or another, but I believe people will put up with a lot if whatever happens is fair - and is seen to be fair.

"For instance, is it fair that some people pay a huge amount of council tax unrelated to their ability to pay? Often it falls on those who have paid their way all their lives. Council tax is an out of date, unfair system that should have been replaced years ago. Councils have big departments sending out council tax bills and the Lib Dems would like to see this replaced by a local income tax, which would be fairer and more cheaply and easily administered.

"Not all older people have had the opportunity to build up wealth and many rely on the state pension - a pension that has fallen behind earnings - a link that should be restored. It is wrong and unfair that taxation forms a much higher proportion income for low earners, which is why Vince Cable has proposed that the first £10,000 of income should be tax free.

Back to daft actions by government. My mother-in-law told me she'd had a pensions pay rise. A civil servant, or several probably, posted a letter to her telling her the good news. She would now be hugely better off to the tune of 34p a week! Is it sensible for all that administration, calculation and postage to be applied for such a derisory amount? There must be a better way.

"It is a disgrace that such a term as 'fuel poverty', or even the need for a winter fuel allowance should exist. We need well insulated homes. And I see the winter fuel allowance is one of those things that is always temporary - Alistair Darling has extended it for just one year - will the weather be better then? - some long term weather forecast!

"Finally, trust in those elected. There has been a culture of secrecy and cover up. MPs should be following the spirit and letter of rules and using taxpayers money only for that permitted. But the voting system itself is corrupt. I was born in 1951, when 40% of the electorate voted for the winning party. By 2005 this had fallen to 22%, so less than a quarter support the government. Views of smaller groups are unrepresented and a handful of people in a handful of locations around the country decide who wins. And people with money try to distort the result. It's wrong and unfair.

"Just lately, I have been appalled by the antics of politicians in debating chambers. The name calling and personal attacks in both European Parliament and the House of Commons is embarrassing and destructive.

"Voters want politicians to come together and solve the challenges facing our country. By all means let's debate the best way and yes, disagree on the way, but I would like to see more co-operation and less bickering on the national stage."