Simon Read: Cameron seems out of touch

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The Independent Online

Do you think that PM David Cameron has ever had a need to use a credit card? He appears so out of touch with ordinary folk that it seems increasingly unlikely that he has a clue about how much of a struggle many people face with their finances.

His credit card gaffe at this week's Tory conference showed a total lack of understanding about how or why people use debt or end up in financial woes.

A quarter of households say they will even be forced to borrow to pay for heating and lighting if energy bills rise another 14 per cent. So, far from being able to simply pay off debts – as David Cameron tried to suggest before his spin-doctors changed the message – many people are being forced into even deeper debt misery by the Coalition's cutbacks and by rising basic costs.

Of course that doesn't mean people shouldn't pay off their credit-card balances. Clearing debt is looking essential if we want to survive the financial miseries ahead.

But official figures suggest those who can afford to cut back on credit, have been doing so. The UK's total credit card debt has shrunk by £12bn to £57bn in the past five years.

But the latest Conservative cock-up highlights the hits that many members of society are presently facing.

For instance, research from the beancounters PwC published today shows that pension pots have been slashed since the credit crunch, leaving retirement incomes worth almost a third less than they were three years ago.

Meanwhile a side-effect of the Government's solution to economic woes of further quantitative easing, announced on Thursday is that it will lead to another cut in pensioners' income. Gilt yields were already at record lows and are now likely to fall further, hitting those buying an annuity.

The pensions industry is calling for protection for pension funds and changes to the drawdown income rules.

But what needs to happen is joined-up thinking from the Government, so that a potential solution doesn't lead to misery for millions of hard-working ordinary people.