Either I must be psychic, which I doubt, or the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Works and Pensions – Mr Ian Duncan-Smith and just about the whole of the Conservative Party, and the Editor of The Times, must be reading my GrumbleSmiles blog. None of this can be true !
So it must be just a remarkable coincidence that only hours after I wrote two blogs on the £140 Pension (click on “NOW YOU SEE IT” and “NOW YOU DON’T” or find “A WEALTH LADDER” in TAG CLOUD). There before your very eyes on the front page of The Times is a headline “PENSIONERS BENEFIT CUT”.
The softening up process has just begun. We are being sounded out about cuts to pensioners’ allowances.
The £10 Christmas bonus – a bribe by Gordon Brown many years ago when £10 meant something. Easy to give but harder to take away than Chicken Chow Mein. All pensioners get it in their state pension, but it is certain to be the first disappearing trick.
- Winter Fuel Allowances
This costs £2.2 billion a year and is worth between £100 and £300 to pensioner households, dependant on age and the number of pensioners in the house. Six million pensioners live in fuel poverty and with energy costs rising rapidly, this is a very important benefit to the 1.7 million living below the poverty line.
It is paid with the universal pension so it has a high take up, which is why it is tantalisingly important to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to claw back.
- The Cold Weather Payments
Both Winter Fuel Allowances and Cold Weather Payments are almost certain to go in a snow flurry of talk about global warming. They are a Godsend to pensioners living in fuel poverty, but will hardly be missed by wealthier pensioners or those living in Spain who also get them. They are harder to claw back, because means testing more people would be expensive so they are most likely to go altogether and be used to pay toward a higher universal pension.
- Free Bus Pass
No loss to wealthier pensioners who probably do not use buses anyway, but a real loss of opportunity to the poorest which will significantly increase social isolation.
- Free T V Licences
Again makes no sense to give these to wealthier pensioners but an extremely emotive issue to withdraw. Possibly could be clawed back in future and lost in the muddle of free internet access to T V Programmes.
Ironically the recent argument about removing child benefit from higher paid parents paves the way for the same argument to be deployed in relation to their being no justification for wealthier pensioners receiving welfare payments beyond the universal state pension. The problem for the Government is not whether to do it, it is just about when and how.
The how is answered by introducing the magic of £140 universal pension (soon to be £155). Except, soon means no earlier than 2015 and it may well not apply to existing pensioners, only people who reach retirement age after 2015.
Just to add fog and confusion to the arguement, different figures are used by a variety of politicians in the same party. The new magic pension is £140 or £155 or £160 and will be paid any time from 2015 to 2016 t0 2017.
The cuts are definitely coming but will be offset by a higher basic pension. The power of the grey vote may just allow existing pensioners to escape the cuts, but it will be a close call. None the less they certainly will not likely be any better off.
There’s the £140 Pension Illusion !