Tories accused of trying to bribe pensioners with pre-election handouts

IEA director: "Politicians must stop trying to woo elderly voters at the expense of other generations"

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David Cameron has been accused of trying to “bribe” pensioners while saddling younger people with government debt, after he promised to maintain state benefits for all old people.

Mr Cameron said his 2010 promise to preserve winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and bus passes regardless of pensioners’ income would last as long as he remains prime minister. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have promised to restrict the winter fuel payments for better off pensioners.

But critics accused the Conservatives of playing a cynical “generation game” to woo the “grey vote” because the over-65s are the most likely group to vote in May’s general election. Pensioners’ perks cost about £3bn a year and the Tories have pledged to find a further £12bn cuts in welfare if they remain in power.

Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, said: “Politicians must stop trying to woo elderly voters at the expense of other generations. The elderly cannot remain immune to public spending restraint and abolishing these benefits would help ease the burden on the working age population.”

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David Cameron during his speech about retirement, in Hastings on Monday (AP)

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "It's hard to shake the suspicion that austerity stops at 65. The extraordinary debt that politicians have racked up will weigh very heavily on our children and grandchildren, and continuing these policies into the next parliament will only add to that potentially back-breaking burden. Politicians must stop attempting to bribe certain voters with special favours, show some backbone, and think about the long-term health of the nation's finances by means-testing or abolishing these unaffordable benefits.” 

Speaking in Hastings, Mr Cameron claimed that Labour’s plan to withdraw winter fuel payments from pensioners paying the 40p rate of tax would save only £75m a year. He said the Government’s decision to raise the age at which people qualify for the state pension would save more than half a trillion pounds.

The Prime Minister added: "I don't think we should break the system of having benefits for pensioners for such a small saving when you are giving up such an important principle and such a reassurance to people in our country."

He said: "Comfort, independence, companionship, health - these aren't luxuries; they're what people who have worked and saved all their lives deserve. The fact is, if something happens to you when you're old, or to your income, you can't as easily change your circumstances as younger people can.”

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