Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Labour has rejected calls from some in its own ranks to save £1bn a year by means-testing winter fuel payments

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There was a time when Labour and the Liberal Democrats talked a big game about ensuring that rich pensioners made their contribution to clearing the deficit.

But as the general election looms, Labour has rejected calls from some in its own ranks to save £1bn a year by means-testing winter fuel payments, free TV licences and bus passes, which cost almost £3bn annually.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate (£42,000). But this would save a paltry £100m a year - less than 0.1 per cent of the £120bn spent on state pensions and pensioner benefits.

Some Conservative ministers have argued for the three perks to be curbed for old people who do not need them. But David Cameron has decided to extend his 2010 election pledge to keep the handouts universal, putting Labour and the Liberal Democrats under pressure to go no further than the tiny change they propose.

The reason for the caution in all three parties is not hard to find: pensioners vote. Some 64 per cent of those 65 and over say they are absolutely certain to vote, compared to 21 per cent of 18-24 year-olds. The parties have decided that votes are more important than sensible policies.

Comments