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

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
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
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
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
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
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
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
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
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
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

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