Lib Dem MP wanders into dangerous territory

Sun, 06/01/2013 - 06:00
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By Northernscot-Paul Burstow Liberal Democrat MP sparked a fierce debate concerning the universal payment of winter allowance payments to pensioners in England and Wales.

Dangerous territory you might think when the grey vote is so very important when it comes to election.

The grey vote as it is called is a solid block of regular voters at election times.

At present the payment is paid to all people of pension age. And to be honest, it has been the difference between many hundreds of thousands of pensioners adequately heating their homes in winter, instead of sitting in the cold.

But by opening such a debate the MP has faced much criticism and even the pensioners organisation SASA warned that such a move could kill more elderly people who might be unable to afford to heat their homes.

So what has Paul Burstow the MP concerned actually suggested?

He has remarked that by cutting the allowance to all bar the poorest pensioners, money saved could help pay for elderly care south of the border.

This would save £1.5billion a year and would mean three quarters of pensioners in England and Wales would lose it.

At present Scottish pensioners are entitled to receive free care but a growing number of experts are warning that the long-term costs are not sustainable as our pensioner population grows.

Under present government rules, if you are a pensioner with means, you cannot return the payment even if you don’t need it. Seems crazy, but that’s the rules.

We cannot deny that there thousands of pensioners in England and Wales who are covered by careful or fortunate planning for their retirement and have means.

The MP suggests there are over 100,000 pensioners on an income of £100,000pa. Do they need the payment then? Again a can of worms of emotion can be opened up with such a question.

The idea that a government sets a limit to decide who gets the winter allowance would normally seem ok, but we have a government in London who are slashing financial help everywhere. Where would a fair cut off start?

To suggest three quarters of pensioners would lose the payments mean that the cut off bar must be very low indeed. We simply cannot trust the Lib Dem/Tory coalition to be fair when it comes to such welfare payments when their track record is appalling.

Due to this record, no decent debate will be heard and those pensioners south of the border that are well off will continue to receive either £200 or £400 winter fuel payments. Even the wealthy Margaret Thatcher ex PM can continue to receive the payment. Simply setting an income cut off level for winter fuel payments will cause uproar because we cannot trust our politicians, especially when the likes of Ian Duncan-Smith haunting the corridors looking to chop payments for the disabled for instance .

Set a cut off figure and you can guarantee the politician’s desire to reduce it lower and lower overtime by government ministers, to the point that very few will one day receive winter fuel allowances.

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