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Concerns of the ‘grey vote’
According to Age Concern, around 40 per cent of the votes cast in tomorrow’s General Election will be from people over 60.
Politicians can’t afford to ignore the ‘grey vote’.
Age Concern has identified five key areas which it wants the next Government to address; reform of the social care system, improving pensions, ending forced retirement, making the NHS fit for later life, and enabling older people to play a greater role in society.
The charity’s Our Power Is Our Number campaign is aimed at asking older voters to ask their election candidates to commit to improvements in these key areas‚ to earn their votes.
“The success of any party in this election depends on their commitment to act on the issues which are most important to older people who are more likely to vote than any other age group,” says charity director Michelle Mitchell. “Older people are fed up with second-class services.”
On the eve of tomorrow’s General Election, I asked some of Bradford’s senior citizens what they want from the next government.
Jean Walker, chairman of Bradford and District Senior Power, believes the economy should be high on the political agenda. While she appreciates that cuts will be made, Jean feels that none of the politicians have been brave and honest enough to say just where cuts will be made.
“Nobody likes to face cuts, but we can think for ourselves. One thing I would like to see is a cut on the tax on petrol,” she says.
Jean is concerned about the possibility of a hung parliament. “We have had a hung council and has that worked in Bradford? I don’t think anybody should be held to ransom,” she says.
“I have heard so many pensioners saying they are not voting because they are disgusted about the scandal with the MPs’ expenses, but it’s no good moaning about things if you don’t use your vote. People must be encouraged to vote.”
Immigration is another issue that Jean wants the next government to tackle. She says Bradford is a prime example of a city that has welcomed people from other countries. “But we have to be realistic and look at the fact that we are a small country, and we cannot go on absorbing people as much as we would like to,” she says.
Generally, Jean wants a government that will play fair. “I have always said all we ask for is an even playing field and fairness,” she says. “Some people will not go into care because they will not sell their homes – where does that leave them?
“You should be looking at older age and the things you can enjoy with confidence and not feel intimidated. I think a lot of people feel frightened of growing old. We fought wars for this country, so why should we feel frightened?
“I want pensioners to feel more secure, to feel their lives aren’t means-tested and to feel they are having a fair deal and not as though they are a drain on society.”
Colin Tilleard, 73, wants to see the revival of Bradford on the government agenda. “It’s a mess,” he says. “They start too many projects and finish none of them. You look across at City Hall, the showpiece, and what do you see? A building site.”
Margaret and Colin Purdy, from Cleckheaton, want the next Government to pull the troops out of Afghanistan. “They should never have gone in. I don’t know what they are fighting for,” says Colin.
Veronica Quantrill, from Bradford, doesn’t want to lose benefits such as the free bus pass, winter fuel allowance and cold weather payments.
She believes there is room for improvement as far as healthcare is concerned, and says her sister has waited seven months for an operation. “We need to have earlier check-ups and a quicker reaction to the outcome,” she says.
Veronica’s friend Doreen Luciw also wants more people in employment. “I think a lot of people who don’t work could find something to do. It will teach them the value of money,” she says.