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.
Buying property overseas? Check out these hotspots
Bargain Hunter: Exclusive discount on a SmartGlider - a self-balancing electric scooter
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Number of parents moving to their desired school catchment area is increasing, according to Santander research
- 1 Huawei Mate S and Huawei Watch: new products take on iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch
- 2 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
- 5 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
iJobs Money & Business
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...
Day In a Page
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.