ESSEX: MP believes better-off pensioners should be prepared to forgo some benefits

Bernard Jenkin MP believes better-off pensioners should forgo benefirs

Bernard Jenkin MP believes better-off pensioners should forgo benefirs - Credit: Archant

AN MP last night said pensioners should have tax benefits and allowances cut in next week’s Budget to help reduce the deficit.

Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, urged Chancellor George Osborne to clamp down on the benefits pensioners enjoy – such as winter fuel reliefs and free bus passes – to fund projects for growth.

Mr Jenkin said: “The nation’s finances are still in a terrible state and we need to reduce public spending faster and get on top of the deficit.

“Therefore, we must be prepared to consider things we don’t really want to do.

“I think many better-off pensioners are embarrassed they get a winter fuel tax allowance or pay absolutely nothing for their bus passes. These are entitlements that could be cut down.

“There is £200billion in the welfare budget and that is more than a quarter of public spending.

“But three-quarters of that is for pensioners. It can’t all be untouchable. I don’t think there are going to be any hand-outs in the budget.” Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to protect the benefits of wealthy pensioners and has vetoed the idea of means-testing pensioner benefits, which could raise £2billion a year.

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But Business Secretary Vince Cable has said it is “barmy” to continue paying benefits to wealthy pensioners while squeezing the rest of the welfare budget.

The Liberal Democrat cabinet minister is pressing for cuts in benefits including winter fuel allowance – worth £200 a year, or £300 to the over-80s. Pensioners on higher-rate tax would lose £80 or £120 a year of their allowance under the new cuts.

But Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton-on-Sea, strongly rebuked claims pensioners should be frontline victims of any swingeing cuts when Mr Osborne delivers his Budget on Wednesday.

Mr Carswell said: “Pensioners should not be victims of any stringent cuts in the budget and I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that pensioners should have their bus passes taken away from them.

“They have worked and paid taxes all their lives on the promise that they would be rewarded in retirement age – and I think the Government should honour that promise.

“They deserve all the entitlements they get and the goalposts should not be moved at this stage.

“There has got to be a reduction in the amount of the money the Government spends and I think the axe should fall on Whitehall.”

Mike Le Cornu, chairman of Tendring Pensioners’ Action Group, said: “We are completely opposed to any form of means-testing. If it came in, it would be difficult and pose all sorts of problems in terms of drawing the line between the rich and the poor.”

He added: “We are opposed to any further cuts in any social services or taxes. We need to be protected in the Budget.

“Pensioners have contributed to the wealth of this country and the younger generation are enjoying the benefits of that. Pensioners should be looked after.”

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