Simon Read: Cameron must avoid fatal spending cuts

Millions of people will be dreading next Wednesday when the Government announces full details of its spending cutbacks. But there's one proposal already leaked by the Treasury which I really hope is blocked. The government department suggested this week that emergency cold weather payments to pensioners will be cut from £25 to £8.50.



That's alarming, especially in light of official figures published on Thursday which revealed that the number of households in fuel poverty has climbed to 4.5 million. Fuel poverty is when a household needs to spend a 10th or more of its income to keep its house warm. Meanwhile research from Consumer Focus published this week showed that four in every 10 single older people are living in fuel poverty. It's these folk that will be hit by any cutback in winter fuel payment.



The benefit is paid out when the average temperature drops below freezing for seven days in a row, requiring people to turn up their heating. But if it's slashed to just £8.50 it's not really going to help pensioners cope with extra heating costs, bearing in mind that many need to have their heating on all day. And what happens when older people can't afford to keep their heating on? The simple truth is that for frailer people, cutting back on heating can be fatal.



The latest official figures for excess winter deaths show that in winter 2009 the number of mortalities climbed 49 per cent over the previous year. And the vast proportion of those were among people aged 85 or over. There will always be more deaths in winter when chill weather hits and influenza strikes, but that's all the more reason to ensure that at-risk people such as the elderly can afford as much heat as they need.



The fact that millions are in fuel poverty is simply not acceptable. The possibility that the amount of support we give to those at risk is being slashed should fill us all with shame. If this is a working example of David Cameron's much-promised Big Society, then it's sickening.



Even worse is the theory that behind the move may be some sad political posturing. The winter fuel payment had stood at £8.50 until Gordon Brown as Prime Minister increased it two years ago to £25. But Tories claimed the increase was simply a pre-election bribe. Even if that was true, the payment is a valuable and necessary benefit if it helps to save the life of just one pensioner this winter. The Government must not leave the older members of our society out in the cold when it announces its cutbacks next week.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
science
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before