MP meets Neath’s Association of Old Age Pensioners

Neath MP Peter Hain has spoken of his delight at meeting with members of the Association of Old Age Pensioners at Cadoxton Community Hall on 7th October 2013 in order to discuss the issues affecting the elderly across Neath.

Mr Hain discussed a range of issues that affect the pensioners in our communities, including the importance of independence in old age. It was also an opportunity for the elderly to voice their concerns regarding the Government’s onslaught on the welfare benefits system.

Mr Hain said, ‘I share the concerns of local people I met with today, who feel that their life-enhancing benefits are now under threat. Whilst their free bus passes and TV licences are funded by the tax-payer, these are people who have worked hard and paid their taxes all their lives.’

During the meeting, Mr Hain discussed the importance of local services such as buses and facilities like Post Offices in order to maintain independence and socialising in old age.

Peter (C) with members from the Association of Old Age Pensioners.

The attack on pensioners’ benefits could destroy social cohesion

Guardian

The secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, says in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that he “would encourage” better-off pensioners to pay back their taxpayer-funded benefits voluntarily. This follows Nick Clegg calling for the means-testing of a range of benefits for pensioners, and Paul Burstow, the former Liberal Democrat minister for care services, suggesting the money saved should be channelled into elderly care reform.

There’s clearly a rising call, either to abandon pensioners’ winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and bus passes, or to means-test and tax them. Austerity, an ageing society and acute public spending pressures are cited in justification.

This is simply mendacious, because the savings proposed would be a drop in the ocean compared with the overall welfare budget.

The winter fuel allowance costs between £2bn and £3bn a year; so, unless the threshold is so low as to be worthless, there’s not a chance of being able to fund a new elderly care programme.

Means-testing TV licences and bus passes would raise little more than £1.4bn a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. If, as the government has done with child benefit, benefits are removed from pensioners in the top tax bracket, the amount raised would be even less – about £250m, which is less than 1% of the total welfare budget (about £160bn) or 0.1% of total government spending. Frankly, the cost of all these pensioners’ allowances is peanuts. To lower the threshold for means-testing would be administratively costly, time-consuming and inefficient because of the many varied combinations of assets, capital and earnings among pensioners.

It will also create real unfairness at the cliff edge for pensioners on modest or low incomes – especially those in need of more fuel or frequent travel because of illness, who could lose a key component of their independence in old age. Thousands of such people in my constituency alone have been liberated by free bus travel.

While these benefits are trivial relative to the whole budget, the social and political cost of taking them away could be huge: what would this say about a society of soaring bankers’ bonuses?

For lower earners these benefits are a few comforts guaranteed to them in old age, for middle to higher earners one of the few rewards received for consistent contributions to the welfare pot throughout their working lives. They are a symbol of senior citizenship and social cohesion.

Arguing that Sir Paul McCartney and other pensionable millionaires are receiving free bus passes at the expense of lower- or nil-rate pensioner taxpayers wilfully misses the argument for universal benefits. I doubt that Sir Paul uses his entitlement to a free bus pass – but, even if he did, he pays for it many, many times over in high taxes.

The worry is this: if middle Britain ceased to benefit from the welfare state through at least some universal benefits, why would they still finance the lion’s share of it? The danger is a US-type system of poor law, from which President Obama has struggled to escape with his health reforms.

The attack on pensioners’ allowances leaves a big question hovering over the future of the welfare state: is it for everyone, or just for the poor? In his epoque-defining report in 1942, William Beveridge advocated a universal and contribution-based welfare state in the laudable hope of cementing social solidarity. Now, 70 years later, that hope of cohesion is disintegrating as the Tory-Lib Dem government dismantles the very universalism upon which that solidarity relies.

Cutting or means-testing pensioners’ allowances risks turning young against old and rich against poor while making negligible savings for the Treasury. All parties should be challenged to maintain them in their 2015 manifestos, as they did in 2010, and Labour should certainly stick by the policy.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/28/attack-pensioners-benefits-destroy-social-cohesion

 

The attack on pensioners’ benefits could destroy social cohesion

Guardian,

The secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, says in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that he “would encourage” better-off pensioners to pay back their taxpayer-funded benefits voluntarily. This follows Nick Clegg calling for the means-testing of a range of benefits for pensioners, and Paul Burstow, the former Liberal Democrat minister for care services, suggesting the money saved should be channelled into elderly care reform.

There’s clearly a rising call, either to abandon pensioners’ winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and bus passes, or to means-test and tax them. Austerity, an ageing society and acute public spending pressures are cited in justification.

This is simply mendacious, because the savings proposed would be a drop in the ocean compared with the overall welfare budget.

The winter fuel allowance costs between £2bn and £3bn a year; so, unless the threshold is so low as to be worthless, there’s not a chance of being able to fund a new elderly care programme.

Means-testing TV licences and bus passes would raise little more than £1.4bn a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. If, as the government has done with child benefit, benefits are removed from pensioners in the top tax bracket, the amount raised would be even less – about £250m, which is less than 1% of the total welfare budget (about £160bn) or 0.1% of total government spending. Frankly, the cost of all these pensioners’ allowances is peanuts. To lower the threshold for means-testing would be administratively costly, time-consuming and inefficient because of the many varied combinations of assets, capital and earnings among pensioners.

It will also create real unfairness at the cliff edge for pensioners on modest or low incomes – especially those in need of more fuel or frequent travel because of illness, who could lose a key component of their independence in old age. Thousands of such people in my constituency alone have been liberated by free bus travel.

While these benefits are trivial relative to the whole budget, the social and political cost of taking them away could be huge: what would this say about a society of soaring bankers’ bonuses?

For lower earners these benefits are a few comforts guaranteed to them in old age, for middle to higher earners one of the few rewards received for consistent contributions to the welfare pot throughout their working lives. They are a symbol of senior citizenship and social cohesion.

Arguing that Sir Paul McCartney and other pensionable millionaires are receiving free bus passes at the expense of lower- or nil-rate pensioner taxpayers wilfully misses the argument for universal benefits. I doubt that Sir Paul uses his entitlement to a free bus pass – but, even if he did, he pays for it many, many times over in high taxes.

The worry is this: if middle Britain ceased to benefit from the welfare state through at least some universal benefits, why would they still finance the lion’s share of it? The danger is a US-type system of poor law, from which President Obama has struggled to escape with his health reforms.

The attack on pensioners’ allowances leaves a big question hovering over the future of the welfare state: is it for everyone, or just for the poor? In his epoque-defining report in 1942, William Beveridge advocated a universal and contribution-based welfare state in the laudable hope of cementing social solidarity. Now, 70 years later, that hope of cohesion is disintegrating as the Tory-Lib Dem government dismantles the very universalism upon which that solidarity relies.

Cutting or means-testing pensioners’ allowances risks turning young against old and rich against poor while making negligible savings for the Treasury. All parties should be challenged to maintain them in their 2015 manifestos, as they did in 2010, and Labour should certainly stick by the policy.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/28/attack-pensioners-benefits-destroy-social-cohesion

Hundreds in Neath would be helped by Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee

Neath’s long term unemployed would be guaranteed a job under plans unveiled by Labour which would ensure there is a job for every adult who is long-term unemployed and people out of work will be obliged to take up those jobs or face losing benefits. Local MP Peter Hain has welcomed the announcement calling it a ‘real alternative to the failed policies of the coalition government to get people into work and reduce the benefit bill.’

Initially the guarantee would be for adults who are out of work for 24 months or more, but would be reduced to 18 or 12 months over time. There are currently 110 adults in the Neath constituency over the age of 25 who have been out of work for 24 months or more and would benefit from the plan.

Mr Hain said, “The best way to cut the benefit bill is to get people into work, not punish people who are already doing the right thing by working but are struggling to make ends meet, which the Governments policies are doing as two-thirds of people hit by the cuts to tax credits and benefits in the Autumn Statement are in work.

“The system needs to help people who are doing the right thing and trying to get a job or our already working but struggling to make ends meet. A system which is tough but fair and which rewards people who work.”

The £1 billion costs would be funded by reversing the government’s decision to stop tax relief on pension contributions for people earning over £150,000 being limited to 20 per cent. “When times are tough it cannot be right that we subsidise the pension contributions of the top 2 per cent of earners at more than double the rate of people on average incomes paying the basic rate of tax.”

Neath MP Supports Fair Pensions For All

Neath MP Peter Hain has backed the Fair Pensions for All campaign protesting against the savage cuts to public service pensions by the Coalition Government. Meeting with fellow MPs and Union General Secretaries, including Mark Serwotka of the PCS, Mr Hain was delighted to show his support against the proposed cuts to public sector pensions.

“The danger here is that the short term gains that this Government is obsessed with will be offset in the longer term,” said the Neath MP “What we may see is that many public sector workers will opt out if they end up paying through the nose for a much smaller pension. This coupled with the collapse of private sector pensions over the last two decades means that millions more people will be dependent upon pension credit to top up their state pension, resulting in a much larger burden on the taxpayer and much bigger public finance deficit in the long run. It makes no sense to a Government obsessed above all with reducing the deficit regardless of the consequences. ”

“Currently the median payment in retirement for public service pensions equates to £5,600 per annum or just £100 per week – for women it can be as low as £2,600. The claim that these pensions are ‘gold-plated’, as some elements in the Government and media suggest, is unreasonable when you consider that the pension of an average private sector worker in a defined benefit scheme amounts to £5,860 per year.

Mr Hain said “This is an example of the Tory led Government’s attempts to spin and distort the reality of pensions in this country. Their cuts to public pensions and services will create increasing desperation.”

“Private sector pensions have declined dramatically over the last decade, from when almost a half of the workforce was on a workplace pension, to a situation where now there is only a third. The taxpayer will then lose out as they will have to endure the resultant costs due to an increase of means tested benefits, greater health and social care costs, and the inevitable increase in pensioner poverty.”