Many over 50s are now concerned that important benefits might be threatened in the light of the abandonment of the universal principle for child benefit.
In January this year, Saga produced a list of demands from the over 50s to the new Government. In his response to this Saga Generation Manifesto, David Cameron wanted to show he understood the financial issues that the over 50s face.
He said: "Labour aren't being straight with you about what they're doing. And they're not being straight with you about what we plan either. They're going around scaring pensioners, telling you that the Conservatives are going to cut the Winter Fuel Allowance, cut pension credit and end free bus travel and TV licences for over 75s; you must not believe them. I can promise you - these are lies, lies, lies. You have my word. If we win the election, we will protect all of these things.’
To a pre-election meeting at which he addressed Saga customers, Mr Cameron was asked how he intended to earn older people's trust. He replied 'I think by being frank and straight with people…The way you earn trust is by showing that you are trustworthy'.
We believe Mr. Cameron must therefore demonstrate that he can indeed be trusted in future. Breaking his cast-iron commitment not to remove Winter Fuel Allowances, free bus passes and other such benefits from pensioners, would enrage millions of pensioners who relied on his promises to them.
He could not have been clearer.
So we say to Mr. Cameron that reneging on these assurances is simply not an option. Yes, times are tough – over-50s recognize this more than younger generations – but any changes to benefits need to be fair and not as arbitrary as the child benefit changes. Our state pension is among the lowest in the developed world and the Winter Fuel Allowance alone is worth over £5 a week, so abolishing it would amount to a cut in the state pension of that amount. Pensioners have no way of making up their lost income.
Instead of abolishing them, a possible alternative might be to consider gradually incorporating the value of Winter Fuel Allowances and other universal, tax-free benefits into the state pension. This would simplify the state pension, as well as improving its generosity over time.
“We would welcome an outright denial of any plans to change pensioner benefits to reassure pensioners that their already appallingly low payments will not be even further reduced.”
Saga's exclusive webchat with David Cameron took place on Friday 26th March 2010.
In answer to a question asking how he could reassure wavering marginal older voters: 'First of all, I think it is very important that we nail some of the lies that are being told about what the Conservatives would do. [People] are being told by Labour that if the Tories get in they won't get the free bus pass. That is a lie. We will keep the free bus pass. We will keep the free television licence. We will keep the winter fuel payments. We will keep the pension credits. People need to know that, they need to hear it from me. That is a promise'.
The full transcript can be read here:
Launching the Conservative Manifesto for older people,on April 18th 2010 Mr Cameron repeated these promises: 'You will keep the benefits you depend on. Don't believe Labour's lies that we will cut them or get rid of them. The Winter Fuel Allowance, pension credit, free bus travel and TV licences for over 75s - these will all stay. No ifs, no buts'
For more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.