Jo Swinson: Rich OAPs ‘should lose fuel money’

Jo Swinson said subsidising wealthy pensioners' energy bills is difficult to justify in times of austerity. Picture: John Devlin
Jo Swinson said subsidising wealthy pensioners' energy bills is difficult to justify in times of austerity. Picture: John Devlin
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RICH PENSIONERS should be stripped of their winter fuel allowance to give young people cheaper bus tickets to work or college, according to the UK’s employment relations and equalities minister.

Jo Swinson, Under-Secretary for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs and for Women and Equalities, said subsidising wealthy pensioners’ energy bills is difficult to justify in times of austerity.

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Young people should be given help to get to work or college with a two-thirds discount on bus tickets instead, she told the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Dunfermline.

The proposal is likely to make its way into the party’s UK election manifesto, the Lib Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire said.

“The pre-manifesto does suggest that it should not be going to all pensioners and all wealthy pensioners,” she said.

“That is a good example where in times of difficulty, in times of austerity, that is something which is very difficult to justify when there are so many other difficult decisions being made.

“I do think that our triple-lock on the state pension has been the right policy to progress with because that gives a basic dignity to everybody.

“But things like the winter fuel payment I think come into a different category, and I think that is quite right.

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“One of the things that we have highlighted in our manifesto is our suggestion to actually give two-thirds discount to young people in terms of bus travel, and to pay for that partly by the winter fuel payments actually being taken away from wealthy pensioners who can afford it.

“It would really say: this is something which we ought to give some opportunity to the next generation who perhaps need to get the bus to college to learn, to start off in work and so to really be very clear about saying: yes, we’re not going to continue doing this but we are going to use that money to pay for this specific good thing.”

Ms Swinson recognised that concessionary bus travel in Scotland is devolved to Holyrood, but said the Scottish Government would benefit from Barnett consequentials resulting from the savings in the winter fuel allowance budget.

Scotland set for full control of income tax and sweeping new welfare powers when the Smith Commission publishes its blueprint for strengthening the Scottish Parliament this week

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