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Cut pensioner benefits now because they 'won't be around to vote' in next election, says think tank director

Pensioner benefits have been widely protected by the Tories since they came to power, with younger generations worse hit

Matt Dathan
Online Political Reporter
Monday 05 October 2015 12:36 BST
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Alex Wild said the Government must not wait to make cuts to benefits such as the winter fuel allowance
Alex Wild said the Government must not wait to make cuts to benefits such as the winter fuel allowance (Getty)

Now is the best time to cut pensioner benefits because many of those affected “won’t be around to vote” at the next election and others will forget they had them in the first place, a think tank director has said.

Alex Wild, a research director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a think tank that campaigns for lower taxes, said the Government must not wait to make cuts to benefits such as the winter fuel allowance, free bus pass, free TV licence and the Christmas bonus for the over 65s.

The former Tory Defence Secretary Liam Fox, speaking at the same fringe event at the Conservative party conference, agreed, saying the Government must take advantage of the “great opportunity” of a weak opposition to push through unpopular decisions, “however unpalatable they will be”.

He added that older people would understand the need to cut the deficit and help the future generation.

Pensioner benefits have been widely protected by the Tories since they came to power in 2010, with the biggest cuts falling on the younger generation in the form of welfare benefits, rises in tuition fees and widespread cuts to departmental spending.

Mr Wild said there were two reasons why the Government should make the cuts to pensioner benefits “as soon as possible after an election” .

"The first of which will sound a little bit morbid - some of the people... won't be around to vote against you in the next election,” he said. “So that's just a practical point, and the other point is they might have forgotten by then.

"If you did it now, chances are that in 2020 someone who has had their winter fuel cut might be thinking, 'Oh I can't remember, was it this government or was it the last one? I'm not quite sure.'

"So on a purely practical basis I would say do it immediately. That might be one of those things I regret saying in later life but that would be my practical advice to the government."

Mr Fox said now that Labour was no longer a “great threat,” it offered the Government a “great opportunity for us to do some of the more difficult things, however unpalatable they will be in the short term are what we need to do for the country".

He said: “This is the time to fix the roof….we have a broken opposition. We have just won a general election and we need now to take the tough decisions we believe are right… we need to do what we all know deep in our hearts to be right."

Mr Fox added: "We have got to start to get really honest with people because this is not a sustainable position," he said.

"We can't afford it now, we can't afford it in the future, why don't we try to get a longer-term plan put in place so that people can make the adjustments they will need to make for us to be able to get back into balance."

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