This is the level to which we have descended:
Winter fuel payments should be means-tested to help pay for care of the elderly, a former minister has said.
A report by Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow said targeting the allowance would help pay for a fairer social care system.
The report said it could fund most of the £1.7bn cost of implementing reforms of elderly care in England.
While David Cameron said universal benefits for pensioners would be protected the BBC understands ministers are poised to back a cap on care costs.
There are four gross errors there:
- that means-testing is ever equitable. The only fair means of adding or deducting income is through the general tax system.
- that mean-testing one small benefit (and the winter fuel allowance is as nugatory an acknowledgement as any) stops there. What would be the next ‘cut’? Anyone doubting there is a hidden agenda might refer to today’s Daily Telegraph, where smiling Gregg Shapps reckons restricting benefit rises was ‘about fairness’ and Robert Winnett, Political Editor is oh-so-concerned about more than £208 billion in benefit payments during the 2012-13 financial year. Even ConHome wonders: Er, hang on a minute…how much of that is the state pension?
- that money retained by the Treasury (which is what a “cut” such as this amounts to) is ever automatically available for alternative use. Indeed, such an arrangement is the dreaded ‘hypothecation’.
- that ‘most of’ the cost of care for the elderly can be provided on a measly £1.7 billion ticket. That is derived from the Dilnot package, which was costed at £2 billion plus — and even that assumed a minimum £35,000 ‘take’ from each recipient of the care package.
Over the years the pensioners of Britain have been the Exchequer’s cash-cow. Private pensions have been serially robbed. State pensions have been down-indexed.
Paul Burstow has, of course, been a career politician almost all of his adult life. It shows.