Tuesday, 10 July 2012


I'm obliged to "Arbroath" for pointing me in the direction of this story in the Indy about pensioners' benefits.

I felt it was worth a comment because it's actually quite a complicated issue.

Before the last UK election Mr Cameron was forced to make a statement by, if I remember rightly, a Sky journalist who asked him if it was true (as suggested by labour) that he would cut benefits to pensioners. In super election mode Cameron said that he rarely called any one a liar but that Labour were liars. It was something he felt VERY strongly about. He would keep benefits exactly the way he inherited them.

Which kind of boxed him into a corner, and one which I suspect his party wasn't terribly happy about.

It is debatable if Cameron has kept his promise. Winter fuel payments have been reduced from what they were, but the Tory/Liberal argument is that Labour had put them up temporarily and they were due to reduce in any case. (It strikes me too, that there has been some reduction in the amount allowed for subsidised bus fares in England, but I can't be sure about that.)

However, a close friend of the prime minister and party moderniser Nick Boles has recommended that benefits like prescription charges (England only)  bus passes (free in Scotland, subsided in England) free tv licence for the over 75s, and winter fuel payments (universal across the islands) should be available to only the poorer pensioners.

This of course doesn't seem unreasonable, depending whether or not you agree with universal benefits or not.

I'm undecided. I can see the advantages of means testing, and if the money saved on the rich were to be ploughed back into the poor, then that would make some sense. Of course, it will not be. This is Britain.

The thing that made me feel a little disquieted was this paragraph from the Indy's story:

"The Chancellor, George Osborne, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, are prepared to bring in changes before 2015, arguing that old people should play their part in clearing the deficit."

What? It seems to me that it must have escaped the notice of these very rich men that pensioners are very definitely already playing their part in the deficit reduction plan (although as the deficit keeps rising I wonder that it can any longer be called that). 

Firstly many relatively poor pensioners have some savings, upon which they are now receiving insultingly small rates of interest, far far lower than the rate of inflation. So they see their hard saved money losing value by the day. Yet they dare not spend it because they have no way to replace it, and getting old without a small amount to fall back on is a frightening prospect. Keeping the interest rates low may have helped people with mortgages; it has hurt the nation's savers.

The half baked, useless and incredibly expensive quantitative easing programme in which hundreds of billions of pounds have been poured into the banks, has, it seems to me, done nothing to improve the situation for anyone other than fat cat bankers. What it has done is take billions out of pensions. The bankers cheating on Libor Rates has also cost pension funds dearly. In short people negotiating a pension deal at the moment are in for a sad shock, as the future they might have planned based on pension estimate of 3 years ago, will now be but a dream. 

As Osborne, Clegg and Duncan-Smith will never have to worry about the odd million, they may not have bothered to noticed this.

Means testing can be a useful tool in getting money to where it is most wanted, but it also has disadvantages. 

Firstly it is expensive. Everyone's income, from all sources, and family circumstantial must be verified and staff all over the country would initially have a massive job to do this. But, of course, there will be hundreds of thousands of changes of circumstances every week as people die, have dependants move in and out, spend some of their savings, get extra money from wills (or whatever), have pension changes...and so on There is a huge potential for error, and of course for cheating (yes, some old people cheat).

The second problem is that some things can be means tested on a sliding scale.  A winter fuel allowance for example could be paid in full to someone with £7,000 or less income, and not paid at all to someone on £10,000 or more. In between a sliding proportion of the allowance could be paid. This is a fair way to work.

But you can't do that with a bus pass, so you will have an inevitable cut off point at which people, had they eared but 1p less a month would have been entitled to whatever the deal is in their respective countries. However, as their income stands, they get nothing! Very unfair.

Interestingly, I have yet to hear about MPs taking about reducing the incredibly generous pension they receive; ministers no longer being allowed a redundancy package when they are sacked or forced to resign, given that they already have a well paid job of MP...or expenses as a lord;  nor indeed any reduction in the once-again incredibly generous allowances given to elected and non elected members; or the subsidised meals and drinks in their bars.

Why is that? Should they not be taking part in helping to reduce the deficit?


  1. Glad to be of service! :lol:

    I am also undecided about across the board benefit payments. Part of me says the rich should not be in receipt of benefits. However, there are two problems with this as far as I can see.

    Firstly where do you draw the line over which benefits are NOT paid.

    Secondly with the current, ridiculous bank interest rates, can we really deny any one from benefits. After all , most, if not all pensioners will be using bank accounts as a savings source and at present they are getting 0% or as near as damn 0% that makes no difference!

    As far as the money grabbing Muppets in the Houses of Commons/Lords are concerned they are living on cloud cuckoo land! I think they are ALL living under the impression that George Orwell's book 1984 is reality NOT fiction when in fact it is FICTION and NOT reality!

    To quote my favourite G.O. phrase from 1984:

    "Everyone is equal BUT some are MORE equal than others!"

  2. And Westminster is more equal than all others.

    Ryan the sausage has been kidnapped by the way allegedly by copyright.

    Administration for universal benefits usually costs more than money saved but improves the unemployed figures.

  3. I hear quite a few reasonably well off people complain about these benefits being universal, Arbroath, but I've never managed to pin any of them down about whether or not they accept any of them.

    I don't know what happens with prescriptions in England, but I image that you have to apply for some exemption. I know you have to apply for the winter fuel allowance and for a bus pass. You are not obliged to do this.

    If you get the money for the fuel allowance and you don't need it, there's nothing stopping you giving it to some old people's place to make their winter a little less dismal.

    If you want to have a bus pass...just in case, you don't have to use it. You can, if you wish, pay the full fare.

    As far as the MPs and lords are concerned I think that they should lose their subsidised drinks and food immediately and their pensions should be brought in line with other public sector workers.

    Furthermore as an example to the rest of us, most of whom are paid a lot less than they are, they should take a reduction in salary, or sign up to give a proportion of that salary to charity. This should be doubly so for ministers... not just in Westminster.

    I'm fed up of them telling everyone what they should be giving up to help reduce (ha, bloody ha) teh deficit, but the greedy boot fillers don't seem to do anything themselves.

    And as for the bankers. They are beyond hope. nothing we do seems to make any difference to them, so I'm inclined to agree with my mother. A public hanging or two might show them how disturbed we are and how much they turn our stomachs.

    Still, it's not likely to happen, so we just have to wish very hard for them to lose every halfpenny and end their lives in the gutter drinking meths!

    'Animal Farm' is one of my favourite books. Orwell had the situation summed up pretty well there... "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

  4. Hello Cynical...

    Where's wee Ryan... Don't tell me that that means we can't watch the wee man again?

    Yes, there is more employment potentially in means testing, so some one gains...

  5. C.H. isn't it interesting that the Bitter Together camp have ACTUALLY laid claim to THIS video! There quite a few other videos out there and they lay claim to THIS ONE!

    I wonder how long it will be before they lay claim to Patsy's video?

    Boy you can't make this stuff can you?

    Well you can actually but no one would believe you! :lol:

  6. Ryan has reappeared folks. Be quick and ENJOY! :lol:


  7. The cost involved in means testing usually out eeighs the savings, but there is another reason for not doing it.

    If a benefit is universal it gets more support than if it is restricted. One if the reasons rught-wingers like to restrict benefits is the next stage, where they demonise those in receipt of them and the public mood of the not-quite-so-badly-off turns to "why should those buggers get it and not me"

    And so the benefit goes and no one gets it

  8. True Anon. It becomes redistribution of wealth when it is means tested.

    And it's hard for them to be against older people just because they are old, specially when there are some pretty old people in their number, therefore entitled to these benefits. But being old and taking other people's money... tut tut no.

    To be honest, I never thought that any government would ever take on the old. The unemployed, immigrants, yes, they are popular targets and the public love a good rant against them. The sick, I thought doubtful, but of course, if you dress it up that the sick aren't actually sick but just malingering on their life support machines, that's different.

    But the old, never. Well, yes, except for this lot.

    Another trouble with getting rid of the universality of benefits is it could be the thin end of the wedge to getting rid of any kind of universality.

    After all if you can afford it, why should healthcare be free? Why not sell health insurance to those who can afford it and have sink hospitals for those who cannot.

  9. I see that the English government are so concerned about old people having to sell their homes to pay for care, that they have decided to do something about it...but not till after 2015 when it somebody else’s problem. What are they proposing to do? Why lend old folk money to pay for the care. But wont that mean saddling the old with huge debts which means that after they die their homes would have to be sold to pay for their debts?

    I see that bitter together have felt so strongly about dear Ryan and his angst ridden plea for the union with its wee dogs and sausage rolls that they have decided they are most certainly better together without Ryan and insisted on their copyright by having Ryan removed from You Tube. Now that they have made a complete laughing stock out of him I wonder if he is still thinking of voting “No”?

  10. Better Apart from Ryan ...huh?

    There's a good article on Wings over Scotland about victimisation of unemployed and sick.


  11. Tris

    While this is bad news for pensioners in the rump UK it is good news for the referendum. The people who, according to the polls, are most resistant to change are the over 65s. How long before some tory/new Labour wants to means test the old age pension?

    Looks like yet another union dividend to me. Vote no so Cameron can continue decimate your pension and your allowances, or vote yes where we can have a government who have the same values that most Scots share.

    Looks like a no brainer to me, but I am sure that Niko will be along shortly to tell us why he and his old/new Labour continue to campaign to keep Cameron Prime Minister so he can do his worst to our pensioners, our sick and our disabled.

    Who are more despicable, Cameron and his crew, or Labour who are happy to campaign for him in Scotland.

    Better together! I would say they are having a laugh, but they are definitely not funny.

  12. Tris

    The torys dont you just love them.

    Mibnd you Niko likes them.


    P.S. No idea why I am posting twice.

  13. Well it looks like we could be witnessing a "real" fight for the keys to number 10 at the next General election folks. Do we vote for Gorgeous Dave or Tone the Beautiful?

    Yes, I do indeed mean Tone as in the warmonger Tony Bliar!


    As if he hasn't taken Britain into enough Illegal wars he wants back into number 10 to take what remains of the British armed services to war against Syria or Iran no doubt. Knowing our Tone he'll probably want to do both at once!

  14. Sorry I'm O/T here but I thought you'd like this, not a lot! :lol:



    It's no so much "Call me Dave's" promise of jam tomorrow. It's MORE a case of jam on the face of the Dependence Brigade today! :lol:

    Don't you just LOVE it when a plan comes together!

  15. Abroath 1320 thanks for rescuing Ryan so he can get back to his sausages.

  16. Arbroath

    Thanks for the link to the SNP website. In the Torygraph article about this someone has linked to the Electoral Commission website where this is outlined.

    Red faces all round. Sort of makes Ryan look like the only "professional" part of the Bitter Together campaign. OK maybe not.

  17. Tris

    Just when we thought that "things could only get better" for the yes campaign along comes even more good news.


    Alistair Darling thought that Blair was the right man to lead the No campaign.


  18. It never rains but it pours as the army have now got to supply another 3500 troops for the London olympics making about 17000 in total.

    An incompetent government with no morals or integrity in full swing, what a joke.

  19. Dubs

    If the choice was between Cameron and Fat Boy Salmond the Lard Of Holyrood...............

    Id vote Cameron and dance on Salmonds grave(happily)

    But that aint the choice is it NO the choice is between the United Kingdom the future a plural law abiding politics.

    And a 300 hunnered year old whinge from the past a one party state/law run by a bunch on crim Nationalists.............who will be hanging Unionist from the lampposts in a street near you.

  20. Och Dubs... don't worry about posting double. I'll clean them up.

    I agree. I believe that bit by bit they are determined to dismantle the welfare state which they don't really believe in.

    They hand over the management of unemployment to rogue companies who cheat them out of money left right and centre (mind you Labour did that too); they hand over sickness and incapacity to a set of utter scoundrels, who care for their profits and their targets and give not a stuff for all the people who have died as a result not long after coming into contact with their wrong decisions.

    In England, where they have the power to do so, they are selling off the health service. Doubtless somewhere in the future they have retirement pension on their list for getting rid of.

    The scary thing is that no one believes they will do this. "We've paid all our lives", they will say. "We are entitled to a pension."

    Well, there are people who have paid all their lives and for the first time find themselves on the dole, only to find that because their partner has a part time job, they are entitled to nothing.

    Be warned people. They are coming to get you. They are bastards and they have no pity and no feeling.

    Some of them make the Gestapo look friendly.

  21. Good Lord Dubs. Completely mad woman. She needs locking up. And Cameron likes that....

  22. Only one thing to do with him Arbroath. Have him arrested and deported to Holland to face charges of war criminality.

    Shooting is too good for him, but I suppose it will do.

  23. LOL Arbroath!

    They really should check out these things first, don't you think?

    I mean surely a legal expert, and there must be someone who knows something about law on their side, would have told them what the parameters of the Electoral Commission's remit are.

    Jeez, what a pile of amateurs.

    What was it that Iain Gray used to say every time anything at all happened in the country "This is a personal humiliation for ...."

    Yes, well something like that.

    Isn't Alistair Darling some sort of lawyer person. (He sure as hell wasn't an accountant!)

  24. LOL Dubs. Yes, replace Darling Alistair with wee Ryan and his wee sausage dug.

  25. Wait for it Cynical, next week they will have to announce even more, as they find that the contract they have with that daft old woman who leaves kids under bridges in London in the middle of the night, only involves using "volunteer" children, who wouldn't be able to deal with anything more than a request for the nearest toilet.

    Fire safety will demand that they have highly trained stewards to ensure rapid exits from buildings that fall down or fights that break out, or heaven forfend, any kind of nutcase terrorist attack.

    Oh yes. We may be pulling people out of Afghanistan sooner than they thought.

    And that daft old bat friend of Blair, Jowells, has got a damehood out of this fiasco.

    Geez, you must get these things in lucky bags now.

  26. Niko

    Who are you trying to kid? Only yourself. The choice is either Cameron to continue as Prime Minister as voted in by the South East of England or Scottish people getting the government they elect at the ballot box.

    We know who you and all your Labour pals will choose, after all your party is all torys now. Thats why 38 Scottish Labour MPs voted for further privatisation of the English health service. Why Milliband gave a speech on immigration that the BNP would be happy with. Socialist! todays Labour party do not know what that means.

    You must love getting dictated too by other people, do you give your neighbour all your money and then ask him to give you your pocket money back? If not, why not, after all your are happy for that to happen in Scotland.

  27. There you go lads. You read it here first.

    Niko prefers a neo-Nazi English based government to a Social Democratic one of his own people.

    Well Niko, don't come crying when they decide that people like you are dispensable ... because they will.

  28. Yes CH. I know I am.

    I'm not a conspiracy theories person, but it seems obvious to me that they are chipping away at all the things that people fought so hard to get; things that pulled the poor out of serfdom; that made miserable lives a bit more bearable.

    I see they have attacked widows with children now. They should be back at work instead of getting a small amount for bringing up their kids.

    I thought that the Tories liked parents to stay home and bring up their children, taking responsibility for them, instead of ditching them with a child minder every morning.


    There will be a Cameron Youth shortly.

  29. Oh bless Boris... Would you just listen to him...


  30. Headless chickens, lemmings or Ostriches with their heads in the sand? :lol:

  31. Tris

    By the "we have no future without them" he obviously means the Tory party and the No campaign.

    No bankers, no donations, thats what worries him.

    Niko will back Boris all the way. Labour needs tory money to help with the Labour party campaign to keep David Cameron Prime Minister.

    Now what was it that rhymed with bankers?

  32. All of these Arbroath.

  33. Yes Dubs, without the bankers the Tories are sunk.

    And wouldn't that be a shame!

  34. PS: I think Niko has a fancy for Ruth Davidson. She's inveigled him into her nasty web.... She'll probably eat him.

  35. Dubs:

    More than one in seven lords are in the pay of finance firms or have financial services clients, according to the register of members interests. That's 16% of House of Lords voting rights. They also take a large number of seats on committees scrutinising issues vital to the City. Very dodgy!

  36. Tris

    Very dodgy indeed, just think some people in Scotland actually want to continue with that type of government.

    Mind you I keep forgetting we are too wee too what was the rest I forget. Our big neighbour knows best.

  37. Better ask England Dubs. I'm just Scottish and too erm... oh look, I'm too wee and poor and stupid to know what I am!!!