Elderly get Â£200 bonus as Brown plays 'winning ticket'
The Chancellor's £200 bonus for pensioners to help them pay their council tax bills coupled with free bus passes were hailed by Labour MPs as the "winning ticket" for the general election.
Gordon Brown also saidthe elderly would no longer have their pensions reduced by hospital charges if they stayed in hospital for more than a year.
Mr Brown's attempts to match the Tories in appealing to pensioners reflect the importance of the "grey vote". The elderly are more likely to vote in the election than the young.
There will again be a £200 winter fuel allowance, rising to £300 for the over-80s.
At the same time the pension credit will be increased by 13 per cent over the next three years to ensure a minimum pensioner income of £119 a week by March 2008. The basic state pension for the next year will be £82.05 for a single person and £131.21 for a couple, while the guaranteed minimum incomes will be £109.45 and £167.05 respectively.
The pre-Budget report last year promised a £50 discount on council tax. The decision to pay a £200 discount will cost £800m a year and the free bus passes will cost a further £400m. The Lyons report on reforming the council tax, to be published after the election, will also promise further reductions for poorer pensioners, by linking council tax more to the ability to pay.
However, the gloss quickly came off the Chancellor's package for pensioners when it was discovered in the small print of the Treasury documents that the bus passes would be free only for off-peak travel.
One Labour MP said: "They already have free off-peak travel in Nottingham for pensioners and they are known as the 'twirlies' - because they are constantly being told they are 'too early' to travel free."
Pensioners' groups lined up to accuse the Chancellor of handing out means-tested election gimmicks without offering a big rise in the state pension. Yesterday local authorities started sending out council tax bills of up to £2,000 which will dwarf the discounts.
Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, said the Chancellor had failed to match the Tory pledge to cut pensioners' council tax bills by up to £500. David Willetts, the shadow Pensions Secretary, said: "Gordon Brown failed to say that this help is only for one year. It is only paid in 2005-06, which just happens to be election year."
Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "The Chancellor still has done nothing to fundamentally fix pensioner poverty. We are still in a situation in which two in five pensioners eligible for pensions credit do not claim it.
"There is now an urgent need to introduce a Citizen's Pension that ends the discrimination against women and ends means-testing for the oldest pensioners."
Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, accused Mr Brown of producing a "cash bribe" for the elderly which failed to meet their real needs. He said policies had been skewed towards means-tested benefits which were inefficient at reaching those most in need, and unpopular because people had to "plead poverty" to claim them.
The National Pensioners Convention president, Rodney Bickerstaffe, said many OAPs would be disappointed that Mr Brown did not substantially raise the basic state pension, restore the link with earnings, end means-testing or do anything to widen women's entitlement to pensions.
Mr Bickerstaffe acknowledged that the £200 council tax refund would be popular but expressed disappointment at its one-year limit. "The Government will have to do more to end the unfairness of a tax that has no relationship to an individual's income," he said.
The Association of Retired and Persons Over 50 called for radical reform. "Nothing has been done to reduce the stigma of means-testing or the less than satisfactory take-up of pension credit," said a spokesman.
Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern England, said: "The reality is that two million pensioners are still in poverty and these measures do not solve the root cause of the problem. The basic state pension is disgracefully low and small annual increases are not good enough.
"The Government must increase the basic state pension to at least £109 per week and move away from mass means-testing," Mr Lishman added.
The Insider: Fridge-freezers
Questions of Cash: What are my rights if my leak is caused by neighbours’ roofs?
Pension mortgages: 'The advice I was given was wrong and now I face losing my home'
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Your money: Let’s hope for a fairer, more honest 2015
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
Day In a Page
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens