Treasury donates pensioners' 75p protest cheques to old-age charity

Click to follow
Indy Politics

A Treasury fund built up after pensioners around the country sent in 75p cheques to protest at their low pensions increase has been secretly donated to acharity for the elderly.

A Treasury fund built up after pensioners around the country sent in 75p cheques to protest at their low pensions increase has been secretly donated to acharity for the elderly.

The fund contained nearly £50 after about 40 pensioners sent in token protests by cheque and in cash this summer. Treasury ministers refused to name the charity which received the lump sum.

A spokesman claimed the Treasury was worried that the charity would become "inundated" with inquiries about the Government's donation. As a result, he said, it had been agreed to keep the identity of the charity secret. All the spokesman would say was the organisation "works with elderly people".

He added: "We didn't want to make a big deal out of our support for them or subject them to lots of calls from the media." The fund came to light after a former civil servant and a lifelong Labour voter from Devon, Nora Knight, revealed in a letter to The Independent in September that her 75p cheque had been cashed.

Mrs Knight, 78, had addressed the cheque to Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and sent it to 11 Downing Street in July.

The protests underlined the intense pressure which Mr Brown has endured over pensions. They suggest that some pensioners are dissatisfied with the £6.5bn extra Mr Brown spent on benefits, such as the winter fuel allowances and the minimum income guarantee.

Tomorrow, ministers and MPs will face a series of rallies led by Tony Blair's father-in-law, Tony Booth, and organised by the National Pensioners' Convention, ahead of Mr Brown's pre-Budget report in the Commons on Wednesday. The convention wants a large increase in the basic pension and a direct link to rises in earnings restored.

After a petition signed by 500,000 people is handed in to Buckingham Palace, MPs will be lobbied by up to 1,000 pensioners at Parliament. Mr Booth is expected to speak alongside the former Labour minister Baroness Castle of Blackburn and the TUC leader John Monks in central London.

As a direct result of Mrs Knight's complaints, it emerged yesterday that the Treasury has also abandoned an historic convention that all cheques and donations sent to it are cashed and the money put in the Consolidated Fund.

When the first protest cheques began arriving, the Treasury changed policy by putting the money in a special holding account until ministers decided how to respond. Officials had considered sending the money back to each individual protester, with a letter defending government policy on pensions. That option was rejected and the account closed. In future, pensions protest cheques will not be cashed. "It had been standard practice but when we realised, we sorted it out," the spokesman said yesterday.

Comments