Rishi Sunak has been warned he will lose pensioner votes if he “cheats” them out of the full triple lock hike they are due.
Downing Street fuelled fears the 8.5% increase expected in April could be reduced after it said the settlement must be “fair across the generations”.
Campaigners warned that anything less than the full amount expected would be seen as a “betrayal”.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “This worrying rephrasing of the Government’s attitude towards the triple lock this year fills me with foreboding.
“It looks like the Government is trying out its excuses before it lets down millions of state pensioners again.
“We remember that exactly the same arguments were used when the Government suspended the triple lock in 2022-2023.
“Sticking with a manifesto commitment to maintain the triple lock has absolutely nothing to do with fairness across generations, as everyone gets old eventually and will need a decent and protected state pension in their retirements.
“The public and taxpayers will not thank the Conservatives for doing down pensioners and cheating them of their due, as the wide support across the ages for the Express/Silver Voices petition has shown.
“Whatever the gloss the Government tries to put on it, anything other than a full implementation of the triple lock will be seen as the breach of faith it would be, and yet more votes will be lost forever by the Conservatives.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “The level of the State Pension doesn’t only matter for older people, it’s hugely significant for future generations too. If governments allow its value to diminish today’s young people will pay a high price when it’s their time to retire.
“Of course, it is the job of governments to decide how best to spend taxpayers’ money, but the constant speculation about what may happen to older people’s retirement income next year and into the future is hugely destabilising for the many millions who depend on it. The Government should keep its promise to pensioners and honour their triple lock commitment next year in full, no ifs, no buts. Our sense is that anything less than this will be viewed by many older people as a betrayal.”
Average earning figures traditionally used to calculate April’s rise were confirmed this week at 8½%.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is considering whether to change the formula by stripping out public sector bonuses so the figure is reduced to 7.8%.
Downing Street again insisted it is committed to the lock but did not rule out altering the calculation and went further by linking the final decision to whether it would be fair to younger people.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We do remain committed to the triple lock and we will ensure the state pension continues to provide security and dignity in retirement for millions of people across the country, whilst obviously ensuring it is sustainable and fair across the generations.
“As with all policies, it’s important it is fair both in order to protect pensioners but also right to be fair to all taxpayers.”
Under the triple lock, the state pension usually rises each April by inflation, wages or 2½% – whichever is higher.
Dean Butler, managing director for retail direct at Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, said an inflation-busting increase could fuel calls for the lock to be ditched.
He said: “It could be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ as an inflation-busting state pension will only fan the flames of debate around the long-term affordability of the payment.
Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, said: “While an 8½% increase would be welcome news for state pensioners’ purchasing power, it would do little to quieten the growing concerns that the triple lock in its current form is unsustainable longer term.”
The Daily Express and Silver Voices campaign to secure the full payment due has been backed by more than 273,000 people.
Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/stick-with-the-triple-lock