David Cameron rejects winter fuel allowance cut for pensioners

 

David Cameron rejected calls to means-test winter fuel payments today, insisting he would stick to an election pledge not to cut state help for pensioners.

The Prime Minister stuck to his guns after ex-care minister Paul Burstow said all but the poorest OAPs should be stripped of the cash.

In a report for the Centre Forum think-tank, the Liberal Democrat said the savings would help pay for long-delayed reforms to the social care system.

With austerity cuts starting to bite, there is mounting pressure for well-off over-65s to be stripped of the right to help such as fuel payments and free bus passes.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been pressing for a stop to universal benefits and Tory Charities Minister Nick Hurd urged rich pensioners last week to donate their fuel cash to charity.

It is worth £200 for the over-60s, rising to £300 for the over-80s.

But Mr Cameron, who made a commitment to protect such benefits central to his general election campaign, said he would not be budged.

"I made a very clear promise at the election that we would keep the winter fuel payments alongside the other pensioner benefits as they were, and that's a promise I'm keeping," he said.

Mr Burstow's call for the payment to be restricted to those eligible for pension credit - around a quarter - sparked warnings from campaigners that it could lead to more winter deaths.

Both the National Pensioners Convention and Saga said that at a time of rising fuel bills, the cash was key to some people being able to heat their homes.

Mr Burstow has been a vocal critic of the failure to reform elderly care since losing his position in September's reshuffle, accusing George Osborne's Treasury of blocking progress.

The Government has indicated that it accepts the principle of a blueprint drawn up by economist Andrew Dilnot more than a year ago but cannot agree on how it should be funded.

Mr Burstow suggested costs could be cut by around £1.5 billion if individuals were asked to contribute £60,000 to their care before the state steps in, rather than the £35,000 Dilnot proposal.

Currently, elderly people in England have to contribute to their own care costs if they have savings of more than £23,000, forcing many to sacrifice their life savings and sell family homes.

"A cap at £60,000, plus a means test being lifted from its current £23,250 to £100,000, would actually cost about £8.4 billion in the life of the next Parliament," Mr Burstow told the BBC.

"We can meet that by having a trade-off between those currently receiving the winter fuel allowance and not receiving it in the future but actually that being targeted on the poorest and the savings being used to ensure the frail, those who have dementia, those that are disabled, can have the peace of mind of knowing they don't face those catastrophic care costs."

He questioned whether it was right that 100,000 pensioners with incomes over £100,000 received the fuel payment, especially when many said it was spent on other things.

And he said he hoped the Government would "finally face up to its responsibilities and take action" on the care reform issue.

Saga director general Ros Altman said means-testing payments could backfire by discouraging people from saving for their retirement in the first place.

And she warned lives were at risk.

"Every winter, over 20,000 pensioners die of cold in this country and these 'excess winter deaths' would increase if more pensioners were denied their winter fuel payment," she said.

"It is likely to mean more people deciding not to bother to look after themselves, since they see colleagues who may have chosen not to bother setting aside sums for the future receiving far more."

Taxing the payments or raising the age of eligibility could be considered, she said, but the principle of universality should be protected.

Convention general secretary Dot Gibson said Mr Burstow's proposal would create a "costly and inefficient bureaucracy" which would discourage people who really needed the money from claiming.

"Taking money from pensioners who are trying to keep warm this winter on just over £10,500 a year will only create more fuel poverty and ultimately lead to more older people dying from the cold.

"Suggesting that these pensioners are well-off and should pay for the care of other older people is simply ridiculous."

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne called for a resumption of cross-party talks.

He said: "The Government is completely out of touch with the immediate care crisis. Instead of sticking their heads in the sand, they should engage in serious cross-party talks so we can get a proper agreement across all the political parties about how we fund long-term care in future."

PA

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution