Thursday, 2 May 2013

Why aren't benefits means tested for the over 65?

Polling stations for the 2013 local elections are now open across England. More than 2,300 seats are to be contested in county council and unitary authority elections, including the seat for South Shields vacated following the resignation of David Miliband.

What I find interesting is that in a time of austerity the predicted turnout for the 18-34 age group is well under 50%, even the during the last general election only 51% of that age group made it to a polling station. I'm not sure whether it's a general lack of interest in politics or a mentality of 'my vote won't matter'; the later couldn't be any further from the truth. A high percentage turnout for a particular age group is vital if you actually want the Government to listen to what you want.

The average turnout of voters aged 65 or over during the last general election was 76%; the highest turnout of any age group and a fact politicians are well aware of. You only need look at how quick David Cameron was to dismiss Iain Duncan Smith's suggestion that wealthy pensioners should give back their free bus pass, television licence and winter fuel allowance. Cameron has promised that all benefits available to those over 65 would remain in place regardless of their financial situation, essentially he's trading a few billion pounds for a few million votes.

Benefits should always be means tested, it should be a system helping those who truly need it and not those who feel they deserve it because they've worked hard all their life. The over 65 are the only age group to receive full benefits regardless of whether they need it or not. Every other age group has had to deal with significant cuts, why should the over 65 be any different?

An unemployed person in their mid-twenties isn't entitled to job seekers allowance if they have more than £16,000 worth of savings. A multi-millionaire pensioner can claim a full pension, free bus pass, free television licence and receive a winter fuel allowance at the tax payers expense. Where's the fairness in that?

It's incredibly unlikely that the Conservatives will make any significant cuts to over 65 benefits this close to a general election, they can't afford to lose the votes. It would seem that David Cameron is willing to take from those who'll have less of a say in whether he remains at 10 Downing Street.

In 2009 Cameron claimed a Conservative Government would take 'unpopular' decisions, how about you actually follow through on that David?