Pensioners outraged by the price of staying warm

NORMALLY an afternoon at the Cambridge House day centre was lovely, with a hot lunch and bingo. But yesterday the peace was shattered by government plans to put VAT on fuel.

The pensioners were outraged. On the day that Ann Widdecombe, Social Security minister, defended the plan in London, her elderly constituents in Maidstone described their views of it as 'unprintable'. Walter Scott, 77, said: 'I voted Tory but I wouldn't do it again.'

Ms Widdecombe said she was keen to reassure the elderly about the new VAT on gas and domestic fuel. But she had done a poor job, judging by the mood. Without exception, pensioners expressed fears of winters without warmth or light.

We were returning to the hardships of Thirties depression, according to one group of women. 'I'm really ashamed. You shouldn't have to go back to the old days when you had to put on woollies because you could not afford the gas fire,' said Ellen Taylor, 72, a widow living on pounds 57 a week. 'You shouldn't have to sit in the dark because you can't afford electricity.'

The lives of Ralph and Daphne Upward exemplify the privations already suffered by Britain's pensioners. The Upwards moved from a four-bedroom house in Maidstone to a nearby caravan park so they could manage on their pounds 93 weekly pension. Their only luxury is a W-registration Citroen Visa.

When VAT is added to their heating costs the car will have to go, and the afternoons out at Cambridge House - which will in turn push up heating bills. The outlook for future winters is bleak, despite hasty government pledges of extra financial help for the poor.

'We often have the central heating on all night because it's quite draughty. But that'll have to change,' Mrs Upward, 68, said. Her husband, 72, was angry: 'We don't want to go begging to anyone but we don't want to be abused.'

Bessy Patient, 85, and Ida Hendley, 90, used to clean floors together. Mrs Patient said: 'If the Chancellor was here I'd tell him straight to his face that pensioners don't have enough money to afford this.' Mrs Hendley added: 'I'll have to stop buying food when my bills go up.'

The pensioners' chat was all financial. Some had already calculated bills swollen by 17.5 per cent VAT. Mr Scott, a retired prison officer, said his heating and lighting bills would rise from pounds 240 to pounds 282 a year.

'Your blood's thinner when you're older. You need more heat and you spend more time indoors,' said Maureen Heard, 70, the centre's cook, adjusting her cardigan.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments