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Miliband vow on pensioner benefits


Ed Miliband will say the only change he is planning to universal benefits for older people is to strip the winter fuel payment from the wealthiest 5%

Ed Miliband will say the only change he is planning to universal benefits for older people is to strip the winter fuel payment from the wealthiest 5%

Ed Miliband will say the only change he is planning to universal benefits for older people is to strip the winter fuel payment from the wealthiest 5%

Free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners will be spared the axe under a Labour government, Ed Miliband will declare in the latest salvo of the battle to win the support of Britain's OAPs.

Labour has already announced plans to strip the winter fuel payment from the wealthiest 5% of pensioners, but Mr Miliband will stress that is the only change he is planning to the universal benefits enjoyed by the elderly.

His claim to have a "better plan for older people" follows David Cameron's promise to protect pensioner benefits for another five years as the parties sought to win the influential "grey vote".

Mr Miliband will commit to keep the "triple lock" on state pensions, guaranteeing they increase in line with earnings, inflation or by 2.5%, whichever is highest.

He will also promise to cap fees and charges on new products allowing people to take advantage of new laws allowing them to take money out of their pension pots.

A new system of safety checks will be introduced for vulnerable older people and will commit Labour to ending the "scandal" of visits by care workers lasting just 15 minutes.

Last week Tory leader Mr Cameron said he would stick to a 2010 pledge to shield universal state help from continued deep cuts to welfare spending for as long as he is Prime Minister.

He dismissed calls for the Winter Fuel Payment, free bus passes, TV licences, prescriptions and eye tests to be means-tested - saying it would save only comparatively tiny sums.

But Mr Miliband will claim that Mr Cameron's promises are not to be trusted and insist pensioners will be better off under Labour.

At an event in Redcar he will say: " David Cameron likes to boast he has looked after pensioners, but like all his other claims, from immigration to the deficit to live TV debates, you have to read the small print.

"Because the truth is he can't be trusted to protect pensioners any more than he can be trusted on living standards for working families."

He will warn that the reforms to retirement saving are being introduced " without ensuring the proper safeguards against fraud and mis-selling are in place".

Mr Miliband will say: " Labour has a better plan for protecting pensioners.

"We have taken a difficult decision to restrict winter fuel payments for the very richest older people, the top 5% with retirement incomes that make them higher rate tax payers.

"But today I can announce that is the only change we are planning in the system. Because even in these tough times when the deficit must be cleared, Labour knows the importance of ensuring those who have worked all their lives can retire with dignity.

"We will strengthen the protection for pensioners' living standards offered by the triple lock by guaranteeing winter fuel payments to all but the wealthiest, as well as bus passes and free TV licences to all those currently eligible.

"This is a big commitment but it is one I am making today because doing right by older people is the right thing to do."

Under Labour's plans, the winter fuel payment worth up to £300 will be removed from pensioners with retirement incomes of more than £42,000 a year.

Mr Miliband will say his plan to "freeze" energy prices, so they can only go down, and measures to cap fees on pensions products will benefit the elderly.

"We will act to protect savings by capping rip-off fees and charges on new pension products coming on the market now so that when people draw money out of their hard-earned pension pot, they have similar protections as they do when they put money in" he will say.

"We will act to protect pensioners being hit with sky-high energy bills by taking on those gas and electricity firms, freezing their prices until 2017 so they can only go down and not up, as well as ensuring that older people in poverty can cut bills further with free insulation and efficiency improvements.

"And we will act to protect the frail and vulnerable, driving out the culture of 15-minute care slots and bringing in a new arm of the NHS with 5,000 homecare workers.

"This is a better plan for older people. The next Labour government will protect pensioners' incomes, safeguard retirement savings, keep homes warm, and improve care for those who are frail or vulnerable."

A Conservative spokesman said: "Last Friday he was announcing a raid on the pensions of nurses and teachers to pay for his cobbled-together tuition fees policy. This Friday he's claiming that he can be trusted to protect your winter fuel allowance - it just doesn't stack up.

"All Ed Miliband would end up doing is borrowing more, taxing more and spending more - and pensioners up and down the country would pay the price."

A Tory source added: "Trusting Ed Miliband with your pension is like trusting a burglar with your house keys. Be in no doubt that if you're elderly, you will be hit hard if Ed Miliband gets into Downing Street."