Britain Today

Not Everyone Needs Winter Fuel Payments (and many of those who do do not receive it)

There is a fair point to say that people who have reached retirement age should expect a social contract to be honoured with whatever benefits the system of the day considers pertinent. Yet, in an unpleasant viewing experience which I have recounted on HP before, the already comfortable beneficiaries of the current largess appear aware that it might be unsustainable:

A recent interview on Reporting Scotland a 60s something pensioner was asked if she thought all the benefits which she did and does receive – creation of NHS, free university education, generous pension, winter fuel allowance, free bus pass – means she should agree to something being withdrawn so the current generation should not be hit harder and harder with taxes. Maybe she personally should, at least, give-up the bus pass or fuel allowance which she manifestly did not require.

Laughter was the only response… but, I’ve worked all my life (and others are not also working to support her upcoming two or three decades of retirement?), I deserve it, I want it. This is pretty much a direct quote.

This is how Holden Caulfield must now be. Smug brat.

Meanwhile, Leftfoot Forward cogitates on a continued error of comic proportions: allowing Ed Balls to promise an iron resolve in resisting a return to financial mismanagement. That said, I agree with him up to a point with his vow to remove winter fuel payments from pensioners whose incomes places them with the top 5% of earners.

Personally, I would extend it down the scale to stop a lot closer to people who do have difficulties in keeping warm and not simply have retired, sometimes to a sunnier clime. A lot of people have worked hard all their lives, even where they have not lived as long as the beneficiaries of this payment.

And only those who have been working since only 1997 can be said to have worked all their lives for a benefit payment which was introduced only then.

The thrust of the Leftfoot Forward piece was a comment by Mark Ferguson from Labour List that the calculated saving of £100 millions from this one proposal would be paltry compared to the disavowal of a principle of universality behind benefits provision.

Again, personally, I find this to be special pleading not only because those affected will not be inconvenienced in anything approaching the same scale as those at the bottom of income ladder who have had a sizable chunk of their income removed with no recourse through the bedroom tax (yes, that is how it is felt by those unconcerned by Sxith Year semantics) and my earlier argument that it is a newly conceived benefit, but also how it could be just as easily applied to another universal benefit for pensioners: free bus passes in Scotland.

This may appear a universal benefit. Yet, a recipient in Durness, Sutherland has only one chance to use it a day compared to one in Edinburgh who has scores of opportunities day in day out: a recipient on one of the remote Scottish islands can forget about it, as can anyone on the 37 miles long a897 between Helmsdale and Melvich which remains the longest stretch of a-class road which does not have public transport provision.

Add to that the potential for private bus companies scamming the public purse through over-staging.

PS This is a thread about winter fuel payments, free bus passes and the like. That means it is not about Israel or Muslims or anything in between. Some deviation is welcome, but not to there.