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Lord David Willetts

Former Government Minister and life peer Lord David Willetts delivered a compelling lecture on the ongoing and increasing wealth, power and assets divide between the generations in our society to an invited audience at the inaugural MHA Walter Hall Lecture. 

Named in honour of the visionary founder of Methodist Homes (MHA) in 1943, the lecture was the first of what will be an annual event aimed at exploring the future challenges for the care and support of older people.

Lord Willetts, the current Executive Chair of The Resolution Foundation Intergenerational Commission, explored the issue of intergenerational fairness in his lecture which was based on his book ‘The Pinch’ and how baby boomers took away their children’s future and why they should give it back. 

He spoke about how millennials are now the first generation to earn less than the preceding one, that their housing costs are at all time high compared to their net income and their incomes had taken a recent hit with changes to tax and benefits. 

As a result, he said, average pensioner incomes are now higher than working-age incomes. 

Lord Willetts went on to speak to the audience how the current welfare state is exposed to increasing pressures, with the proportion of spend on health and care set to grow in coming years. The issue is that the number of people needing care is expected to double over the next 40 years but the amount spent has fallen by ten per cent in the past eight years leaving a conundrum of how to fund the services for the future. 

He sees reform of Council Tax as a key to progressive change as it was created pragmatically and fails to apply incremental charges that match higher property values. 

Political parties had tried to propose reforms in manifestos but had failed, he said. Navigating reform of the funding system was difficult but that the Intergenerational Centre had proposed it needs to consider the balance between social insurance and private contributions, inter and intra generational equity and have public and cross-party support. 

MHA CEO Sam Monaghan commented: “We are honoured that Lord Willetts delivered the inaugural Walter Hall Lecture. In the same spirit as our founder he poses pointed and challenging questions for us about our societal contract across the generations.”

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