Winter Fuel Allowance

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2013 National Retired Members Conference
18 June 2013

Conference is very concerned that the Coalition Government’s Budget on 21 March 2013 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 in 2011 and buried the information in his Budget papers which didn’t form part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement.

In the 21 March 2013 Budget, The Chancellor didn’t even mention the winter fuel allowance, despite the fact that the 2012/13 winter had been particularly harsh and fuel prices had increased considerably. The combination of these two factors has resulted in an even higher number of cold-related deaths amongst older people. No wonder George Osborne didn’t mention it!

Has anything changed to encourage the Government not to increase the Winter Fuel Allowance? No. Energy prices have risen substantially and consistently, the very cold weather lasted longer and was much worse this winter and the basic state pension has not been increased enough to allow pensioners to deal with their fuel bills. More and more pensioners are having to choose between keeping warm or affording food causing many more cold-related deaths. The poverty level is £178 per week for a single pensioner and the basic state pension in April 2013 is £104.64, a shortfall of £73.36.

The UK is the 7th richest nation in the world but the Coalition Government is treating older people in this despicable way, obviously not caring that nations are judged on the way they treat their elderly. The UK state pension is one of the worst in Europe (4th from bottom); therefore coping during cold weather leaves very little if anything for other essential expenses, such as food.

Conference instructs the National Retired Members Committee and calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)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 2013 and take positive action to make our concerns known to the Government through LabourLink, the UK Trades Union Councils (TUC) and UNISON MPs;

2)report on progress to the National Retired Members Committee meetings; the information must then be circulated to Regions and Branches;

3)publicise progress in UNISON magazines on a regular basis and report back to the 2014 National Retired Members Conference on action taken and actual achievements.