- Thursday, 06 September 2012
Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has today (September 7) published a new report calling for the retention of all universal age-related benefits, such as the winter fuel allowance and concessionary bus pass.
The report, entitled Sir Alan Sugar and the Missing Bus Pass, claims the current debate surrounding the provision of universal age-related benefits needs a bit more honesty. It argues that taking the bus pass away from “millionaire pensioners” such as Sir Alan Sugar; given that he probably doesn’t use one anyway, will do nothing to save money.
Instead this smokescreen is being used by both politicians and think-tanks to introduce widespread means-testing into the system which would result in support being withdrawn from all those older people (around 9m) with an income above just £7500 (the level of the Pension Credit). However, it is completely disingenuous to claim that these pensioners are wealthy.
The report also highlights that the revenue collected by the state from older people, either directly through a range of taxes or through costs that older people bear that would otherwise be paid by the state, adds up to a staggering £175.8bn every year, compared to total expenditure on older people through pensions, welfare payments and health care of £136.2bn. The overall, annual net contribution by older people to the economy is therefore almost £40bn – and is estimated to rise to almost £75bn by 2030. Most importantly the NPC argues, this is more than enough to pay for the £8bn worth of age related benefits that are now being questioned.
Dot Gibson, NPC general secretary said: “This idea that the country’s economy is struggling because an army of millionaire pensioners are joy riding with their free bus passes is absolute nonsense. The economic crisis is being used as an excuse to undermine the welfare state and roll back some of our hard earned gains – many of which are necessary because the UK has one of the worse state pensions in Europe. The truth is that every year pensioners contribute £40bn to society in the form of taxes, voluntary work and unpaid caring. Removing the bus pass from everyone for example would raise just £1bn, but would lead to increased isolation and social exclusion amongst the elderly; ultimately costing more in the long run with higher demands on social services and the NHS. The same can also be said about the winter fuel allowance and free prescriptions which help people to stay healthy in later life.”
“Somehow there is a suggestion that these benefits are luxuries we cannot afford – but the total cost is tiny compared to what pensioners contribute to our society. If we start means-testing pensioners we will create a costly and inefficient bureaucracy which evidence shows will result in those who need it most failing to come forward to make a claim. If society is truly outraged by the super-rich getting such benefits, it is perfectly possible to use the tax system on those 250,000 top rate tax paying pensioners to recoup extra funds without the need to resort to a means-test. Any political party that goes to the next election promising to take away the bus pass and the winter fuel allowance from 11m older voters will therefore not only get a shock at the ballot box, but also end up costing the country more in the long-run.”
A full copy of the report can be downloaded from www.npcuk.org.