Campaigners claim government ministers are lining up to break promise over universal pensioners benefits

Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has claimed there is growing support inside the government to abandon the Prime Minister’s commitment to protect universal pensioner benefits up to the general election, following the comments by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith in today’s Sunday Telegraph.

Dot Gibson, NPC general secretary said: “Mr Duncan-Smith has got himself into a terrible mess over this issue. Elements in the coalition government are clearly desperate to take away the bus pass and winter fuel allowance from millions of older people, but they are worried about the political backlash that would follow if they did so. The idea of people paying back their benefits is the latest in a long line of suggestions that are aimed at softening up the electorate for a change. Using additional taxes on wealthier pensioners would be a much more effective way of recouping the money back.”

“But the idea that the country’s economy is struggling because an army of millionaire pensioners are joy riding with their free bus passes is absolute nonsense. There are just 250,000 higher tax rate pensioners in Britain, around 5m paying at the standard rate and 6m whose income is so low they don’t even have enough to pay tax. The economic crisis is therefore being used as an excuse to undermine the welfare state and roll back some of our hard earned gains – many of which are necessary because the UK has one of the worse state pensions in Europe. The truth is that every year pensioners contribute £40bn to society in the form of taxes, voluntary work and unpaid caring. Removing the bus pass from everyone for example would raise just £1bn, but would lead to increased isolation and social exclusion amongst the elderly; ultimately costing more in the long run with higher demands on social services and the NHS. The same can also be said about the winter fuel allowance and free prescriptions which help people to stay healthy in later life.”

“Somehow there is a suggestion that these benefits are luxuries we cannot afford – but the total cost is tiny compared to what pensioners contribute to our society. If we start means-testing pensioners we will create a costly and inefficient bureaucracy which evidence shows will result in those who need it most failing to come forward to make a claim. If society is truly outraged by the super-rich getting such benefits, it is perfectly possible to use the tax system on those 250,000 top rate tax paying pensioners to recoup extra funds without the need to resort to a means-test. Any political party that goes to the next election promising to take away the bus pass and the winter fuel allowance from 11m older voters will therefore not only get a shock at the ballot box, but also end up costing the country more in the long-run.”

ENDS

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