Free TV licences for the over-75s could be means-tested once the BBC takes over responsibility for paying for them from the Government.
The benefit is currently universally available for all aged 75 and older, meaning that one in six households or around 4.36 million people do not pay the annual licence of £147.
But the BBC is considering scrapping this benefit for better-off pensioners, who have just learned that if the Conservatives win the general election, they could have to pay significant amounts towards the cost of their social care from savings and the value of their homes.
Supporters of the BBC, including Lord Melvyn Bragg and Lord Puttman, are reported to believe that Theresa May’s manifesto pledge to means-test the winter fuel allowance is an opportunity for the corporation to do the same with the free licences.
Lord Bragg, who voluntarily pays the licence as part of a campaign to encourage wealthy pensioners to support the BBC, told The Sunday Times he thought means-testing would be “a very sensible idea”.
Savings on raising state pension age compared to cost of Pensioner benefits
In his speech yesterday the PM pointed to the comparative savings from raising the state pension age (£500,000,000,000) – the half a trillion he mentioned sounds a lot less – with the cost of retaining pensioner benefits i.e. Bus passes, Winter Fuel Allowance and Free TV Licences for over 75s which is estimated at £3,600,000,000 or 3.6 Billion which represents 0.7% of the state pension age being raised.
And those for those who now have to wait much longer for their state pension the loss of income is massive. Politicians would be wise to realise that those between the age of 60 and 65 are feeling the pain !
It seems the Conservatives cannot wait to betray their most loyal voting group. If you are a pensioner – beware!
As trailed on Vox Political last November, the Department for Work and Pensions appears to be planning to delete the cold weather payment from its chequebook, along with free bus passes and free TV licences.
We already know that the age at which the state pension will be paid is rising, meaning people will have to continue working for longer before they qualify for the £144/week payment (with a minimum National Insurance record of 30 full years). This is a betrayal of promises made by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in their document ‘The Coalition: Our Programme for Government’.
Because life expectancy depends on where you live and your social class, this means many poorer people will enjoy only three-to-six years of retirement on average, while richer pensioners get 17-20 years of pension payments. That’s right – rich people even get a better deal from the state pension.
Wealthy pensioners should have their benefits cut to help pay for an increase in the minimum wage, the Government has been told today.
Its social mobility tsar Alan Milburn warned the low paid were the ‘forgotten people of Britain’ and called on older people to bear more of the burden of the Government’s spending cuts.
Mr Milburn told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the economic recovery was ‘unlikely to end a decade long trend of the top half of society prospering and the bottom half stagnating.’
The former Labour health minister’s comments came as he published his first annual report commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
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We seem to have arrived at a point where many people seem to have accepted that everything must be done to cut cut cut, (except MP’s pay that is) in a way in which we all know the cost of benefits, but not the value. Having successfully manoeuvred a substantial proportion of the public into regarding those on benefits as scroungers the signs are that some elements already appear to be plotting a similar fate for pensioners, despite the life long payment of tax by pensioners from earnings by most. A consensus seems to be building that pensioners have never had it so good and that they can be cut back further,(remember the elimination of age allowances in the last budget?) and the focus is on pensions, winter fuel allowances, free TV Licences and bus passes. All this of course assumes that pensioners are one homogeneous group with equal capacity to receive less. Let us be clear that Winter Fuel Allowance would be a big miss to those whose income doesn’t stretch beyond the State Pension. (In this blog we have suggested treating Winter Fuel Allowance on the same basis as the State Pension – i.e. taxed if your income is high enough.)
The health and economic impact of bus passes in particular seem to be overlooked, and also the ever growing pensioner power at the ballot box. The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats are all saying that pensioner benefits will remain untouched until the next general election, but that no promises will be made beyond that date, which is less than 2 years away. This sounds very unrealistic, as for sure politicians are going to be exercising their minds on how to tempt pensioners to vote for them, and can they really remain uncommitted to continue pensioner benefits? At this stage however it sounds that UKIP may play a more significant role at the forthcoming election, and there is much uncertainty about their position on many issues. We have therefore contacted UKIP for clarification on benefit issues, and understand that Neil Hamilton, UKIP’s Welfare and Benefits Spokesman is to respond to us. We eagerly await hearing from Mr Hamilton.
We also remain uneasy about the fudge that was made by the coalition government on tax relief for charitable donations. We fully appreciate the work done by charities in this country, and that they need our support to be able to continue. But surely there is a world of difference between those of us who support in a modest way charities such as Oxfam, Barnardos, RSPB, National Trust etc etc etc and the very wealthy who can deprive the taxman of tax on all or most of their income through donations to charities in this country and overseas. We realise that it isn’t popular to stick up for the taxman, but as we have seen if he doesn’t get it in one place he is going looking for it in other places, hence the threat to well earned benefits.
So if not pensioners, who should bear future cuts in spending? – well let us be clear that most of the deficit faced by the government results from a big drop in income into the government’s coffers resulting from the credit crunch and its effects on the economy at large – so lets have a focus on getting the economy moving, which won’t be achieved by encouraging pensioners to stop at home.
In a response to the e-petition ‘Hands off universal pensioner benefits’ which has reached 17,532 signatures the UK Government says:
“As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response: The Government has no plans to remove or means test universal benefits for pensioners. The Government remains committed to protecting key support for older people in recognition of the fact many have worked hard and saved all their lives. This includes: free eye tests; free prescriptions; free television licences for the over 75s; free concessionary bus travel and Winter Fuel Payments. This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold.”
View the response to the e-petition
DAVID Starkey has made an unequivocal stance against pensioner benefits claiming that Britain is ‘in a major national crisis’.
David-Starkey-has-hit-out-against-pensioner-benefits David Starkey has hit out against pensioner benefits
And as part of his argument he has claimed that pensioners should be taxed on their universal benefits and lose their bus passes.
Speaking on BBC’s Questiontime, he said: “The government pays very large sums to the bus companies. I think that the point of wealthy pensioners being taxed is absolutely unchallengeable.
“We should all be subjected to the same rates of tax and very definitely the heating allowance and tv licence and all the rest of it should simply be taxed. That would solve the entire problem.”
Our comment: We’d go along with Starkey’s suggestions as long as non-wealthy taxpaying pensioners didn’t lose out – so increase the allowances and tax them. We very much doubt that Mr Starkey’s idea that “That would solve the entire problem.” – in fact his suggestion is laughable, and echos the government view that pruning here and there will get the economy expanding again.