General

By Bob Duncan
 
Pensioners deemed ‘well off’ should lose their free bus passes, TV licenses, winter fuel payments and prescriptions, according to plans being suggested by a close ally of David Cameron.
 
Conservative MP Nick Boles is calling for the winding up of universal benefits to better off pensioners at the next election as he urges a shift towards policies which he believes will raise the productivity and competitiveness of the UK's workforce.

As yet there are no details as to how the Conservative MP would define "better-off pensioners".  One option suggested would be to target the 5.6 million of them who pay tax.  The tax-free threshold is currently £10,500 for 65- to 74-year-olds and £10,660 for those aged 75 and over.

Mr Boles, who is parliamentary private secretary to Schools Minister Nick Gibb, urged an additional £10.5bn welfare cuts by 2016, along with a freeze on existing proposals for future funding of social care.  He wants means testing to be in place after the next general election in 2015.

Boles is also urging a significant further scaling back of tax credits and housing benefit, and a re-examination of the "lazy sentimentalism" of the Sure Start programme of children's centres.  Speaking on Newsnight on Monday the Tory MP claimed he wanted to propose ways his party can best address the decline in living standards, faltering in the UK for the last decade.

Speaking to the independent Resolution Foundation yesterday - whose work is devoted to diagnosing the problems affecting low to middle income earners - Mr Boles proposed a philosophical shift that should guide the next round of spending cuts due for 2013 or 2014.

In his speech, he said: “If we are to achieve stability in our public finances and make crucial investments in improving productivity and competitiveness, we must find further savings from the welfare budget. He will say that only those tax and spending policies that can explicitly be seen to increase competitiveness of the UK workforce should be supported.

“And if we are going to protect spending on pensions - as we should - equity between the generations requires that these cuts cannot only fall on adults of working age.  We need to acknowledge now that we will not be able to continue the protection of these other benefits for better-off pensioners after 2015.

“The coalition is going to be confronted with some very hard choices on public spending - in Government the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have already shown that we are willing and able to grit our teeth and take unpopular decisions in what we believe is the national interest.

“Is the current leadership of the Labour Party willing and able to do the same?  We know what cuts Ed Miliband and Ed Balls oppose but very little about those they support.  We know what further spending they would like to see but very little about the taxes they would raise.”

David Cameron promised during the 2010 election campaign that the benefits would be retained by a Conservative government and has vowed not to touch them during this parliament.  But last month Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith suggested that commitment would be reassessed in the run-up to the election.

The Prime Minister is believed to be ready to look again at whether pensioners who live abroad should receive the winter fuel allowance.  The number of UK pensioners living in Europe and claiming the payments has risen by more than 50 per cent in five years.

In the 2010-11 winter, 72,840 claimed up to £300 at a total cost of £15.6m.  They included 33,495 living in Spain and 17,815 in France.

Mr Boles concedes changes would be politically difficult but insists the Coalition Government has to admit it cannot continue to protect the payments after the next election.  He also proposes that, in the spending review, the Chancellor should permit growth only in areas that have a clear impact on the productivity of working people.

Labour MP David Crausby has begun to collect signatures to a protest motion in Parliament. "Pensioners to a man and a woman must stand up and fight against this," declared Mr Crausby.
 
The Bolton North East MP added: "The Tories are the nasty party.  This attack against pensioners has always been in their heart and soul."
 
He warned that taking benefits away from "better-off" pensioners was just the start. "They're putting a foot in the door in order to prise open the whole thing.  We have got to stop them."

Tory proposals to means test concessionary travel, prescriptions, TV licences and winter fuel allowance for pensioners highlight the consequences of a No vote in the independence referendum, says SNP MSP Margaret Burgess MSP.
 
Ms Burgess, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee and former elected board member of the national charity, Citizens Advice Scotland, said:
 
"Pensioners have worked hard all their lives and the Scottish Government recognises this with its policies on free personal care, free central heating installation and concessionary travel.  To suggest means testing for pensioners obviously shows how out of touch the Tories are with such a policy.
 
"These comments yet again shows how Scotland’s pensioners cannot trust the decisions made by Westminster where Scotland has less than 10% of the representation.
 
"The only way to protect Scotland’s progress and progressive policies for pensioners is to vote Yes for independence.  With a Yes vote decisions being made for Scotland will be done by our own 100% directly elected Scottish Parliament.
 
"It is also a challenge for the Labour Party who must explain why they support an anti-independence campaign that will leave such decisions in the hands of a Tory-led Westminster government that Scotland rejected at the polls instead of a Scottish Parliament 100% directly elected by people in Scotland"

Meanwhile changes to the welfare system are hitting the most vulnerable in society according to a leading Charity.

'Contact a family' say that 1 in 4 children are cared for by a single parent and these families are being “disproportionately hit” by UK Coalition welfare cuts.

According to a survey carried out by the charity, 58% expect to be worse off in future, with 82% putting this down to the introduction of welfare reforms. 

The charity surveyed 2000 families across the UK, 200 of them in Scotland.

Comments  

 
# Alathia 2012-07-11 07:05
This scenario is going to be 'situation normal' unless Scotland frees itself from rampaging Tory Westminster Governments.
 
 
# tartanfever 2012-07-11 07:10
Have to say this policy will probably gain some popular support when people realise there are many people living abroad claiming winter fuel allowances. To think that a Brit living in the south of Spain can claim alongside someone living in the Highlands is just stupid.

It's just more proof that the people in the best place to look after the population of Scotland is ourselves. Our tax is currently going on winter fuel payments to people in Spain - just staggering.
 
 
# Marian 2012-07-11 08:45
Scotland has to free itself from the "Ferengi economics" that obsess the Westminster unionist establishment who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
 
 
# SEUMAS31 2012-07-11 09:37
To all who voted labour and got a tory government, in the words of the old song, when will we ever learn?
 
 
# bringiton 2012-07-11 09:57
Several "think tanks" have come up with the idea that we seniors have never had it so good and that since we are "all in the **** together" we should take our fair share of the economic pain.
One of the main planks of this theory is that we have large amounts of cash tied up in property which some of us own.
Most of us have contributed to the state in terms of tax paying for more than 40 years and have lived through periods of unemployment,ra mpant inflation and other deprivations foisted on us by the failures of the City of London.
Thanks to the latest spectacular failure of the City,the value of our properties are in decline and we are having to shoulder increased taxes to pay for their failures.
Money taken away from retired people is money that can never be recovered by us.
Younger people being in the position that most of us have been in during our working lives will have the opportunity at some point to recover this loss in income.
This proposal,amongs t others,will reintroduce means testing for certain benefits which can have the effect of costing more to administrate that savings gained through reduced payments.
The Tory press like to make much of benefit cheats which makes targeting this popular with politicians in England.
The people they should be pursuing are not law abiding retired tax payers but those who have sought to enhance their prospects at our expense by tax avoidance and other schemes designed to reduce their social responsibilitie s.
However,this is not a popular subject with the Tory press so unlikely to be pursued with any vigour by Westminster.
I hope that a future Scottish government will treat it's seniors with more respect than that shown by the public school boys south of the border.
 
 
# call me dave 2012-07-11 11:15
In (UK) the priorities are skewed. A wealthy society in general but not willing to look after the social side of things.

eg: Trident an example.


A modest State Pension
The Chatham House report highlights that the UK has a relatively low level of State Pension provision – back in 2007 a report placed the UK in last place when comparing the pensions on offer from European nations, with the state paying an income equivalent of 17% of average earnings. Even the nation in second last, the Netherlands, offered a State Pension paying nearly double the UK figure, while the average across the rest of Europe stood at 57%.

lovemoney.com/.../...
 
 
# dial-8 2012-07-11 12:13
We're all in this together. Yes, but some are a lot more "in it" than others. Are pensioners not being caned enough already? Millions,(along with other savers)have already been made permanently poorer due to a combination of record low interest rates and rounds of quantitative easing. And now this proposal. Where on earth does it all end?
 
 
# Angry_Weegie 2012-07-11 14:03
As someone who has made provision for retirement through contributing tax and NI and contributing to a personal pension, I've seen my income falling in real terms due to current paltry interest rates and low or non-existing pension upgrading, both of which fall short of current inflation. As I have a private pension and own my own house, I would no doubt be one of those considered too rich to be able to be given such benefits.

Imagine the fuss if a private organisation threatened to renege on promised benefits. However, Westminster seems to think it's OK to change the rules whenever they feel like it. You may have contributed for over 40 years (43 in my case), but it seems to be acceptable to give back almost nothing. How long will it be before they introduce means testing for even the state pension.

To make it worse, the bulk of any savings made will go on the means testing process, so there will be virtually no benefit to the state. I suppose I should be pleased that my accelerated drift into poverty will at least have the effect of employing some more civil servants.
 
 
# peter,aberdeenshire 2012-07-11 21:03
I was promised that I could retire at 50 maybe 55 if I started paying into a pension at 21 which I did, I was promised that my endownment would pay off my mortgage with a lump sum extra. Complete lies but both a means to get our hard earned cash into the great financial midden that is London.
All these union dividends!! My erse
 
 
# tilly 2012-07-11 16:01
OT. Slightly.

From the BBC:

'Scottish independence: Electoral Commission 'will not test panel's question'

The Electoral Commission has said it will not examine any proposed referendum question drawn up on behalf of the anti-independence parties.

Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems have asked an expert panel to compose a question which would be submitted to the commission for testing.

But the commission said only the "relevant government" could propose a question.

The SNP said the decision was a humiliation for the pro-union campaign.'

I like it!

tinyurl.com/cycc2dd
 

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