Pensioners from across the West Country are due to lobby MPs amid fears they will lose winter fuel allowances and free bus passes whoever wins the forthcoming General Election in 2015.
Members of the National Pensioners Convention Western Region are due to join colleagues from across the country to safeguard universal benefits – and to urge MPs to consider setting up a National Care Service funded through general taxation, similar to the NHS.
Speakers at the rally will include Convention general secretary Dot Gibson, journalist Owen Jones and former Convention president Rodney Bickerstaffe.
“Rising living costs are making life very hard indeed for thousands of British pensioners,” declares Glen Burrows, the Convention’s spokesman for the Western area. “Age UK estimates that there will be 24,000 deaths this winter, directly caused by fuel poverty. Many of these will be pensioners.
“This Government continues to punish the poor and needy for an economic crisis they didn’t create, while granting tax cuts to the rich, and allowing tax evasion by corporations on a massive scale.”
And he adds: “Britain is a wealthy country. The problem is that the wealth is not being distributed fairly. It’s time Britain’s large army of pensioners called time on these divisive policies.”
The pensioners are to lobby Parliament on November 27 and tell politicians that the Pensions Bill currently going through the House is divisive.
NPC spokesman Neil Duncan-Jordan claims that all three main political parties have announced plans to review universal benefits after the election in 2015, but there is also concern about the rising cost of living and the quality and cost of care.
He says since the austerity measures came into force older people have been increasingly portrayed in a negative light, and adds: “On Armistice Day pensioners are revered but the very next day we have pensioners accused of not feeling the pain of the austerity measures and talk of taking their winter fuel allowance away.
“It’s almost as if pensioners are being blamed for the fact that young people cannot afford houses or get a job, yet it’s not their fault.
“People talk about stopping benefits because Alan Sugar can get a bus pass, but the idea of millionaires queuing up at the town hall when they don’t need to is stupid. Everybody knows that if you bring in means testing, it’s always the poorest people who need it most that will not claim.
“For the welfare state to work, middle class people have got to feel like they have a stake in it too, not just the poor.”