- 2012 National Retired Members Conference
- 19 June 2012
- Carried as Amended
Conference is very concerned that the Coalition Government’s Budget on 21 March 2012 did nothing to help pensioners who are unable to cope with high winter fuel bills. The Winter Fuel Allowance was reduced in March 2011 by £100 (down from £400 to £300) for the over 80’s households and by £50 (down from £250 to £200) for the under 80’s households. George Osborne, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, kept the cuts a secret last year and buried the information in his Budget papers which didn’t form part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement. It was not surprising that George Osborne wanted to keep the cuts a secret at a time of rising energy costs and, even more worrying, an increase in cold-related deaths amongst older people.
Has anything changed to encourage the Government not to increase the Winter Fuel Allowance? No. Energy prices have been rising consistently, the basic state pension has not been increased enough to allow pensioners to deal with their fuel bills, and many pensioners are choosing between keeping warm or affording food. The discussion about means-testing is a red herring. Well-off pensioners would be taxed if the pension was increased but they receive the winter fuel allowance which is not taxed; this is why the Government is looking at means-testing. The basic state pension needs to be substantially increased to above the poverty level (for example: above £178 per week for a single pensioner) which allows pensioners to deal with their own bills without suffering from cold related illnesses or not being able to eat properly. The UK is the 7th richest nation in the world and is treating its older people in this despicable way, nations are judged on the way they treat their elderly, the UK has failed miserably.
Therefore, this Unison National Retired Members Conference instructs the National Retired Members Committee and calls on the National Executive Council to:
a)take positive action to make our concerns known to the Government, particularly in light of the recent Queen’s Speech which lacked any mention of pensioners’ fuel poverty and what would be done to redress this;
b. campaign urgently for an increase in the Winter Fuel Allowance to £700 for the over 80’s households and £500 for the under 80’s households in 2012;
c. publicise progress in Unison publications on a regular basis.