Wealthy pensioners will not receive a winter fuel payment subsidy toward their energy bills if Labour wins the general election, according to shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
The politician has said that a future Labour government will stop winter fuel payments for 600,000 of Britain’s richest pensioners.
This announcement comes after critics slammed the Labour Party for failing to come up with solid policies to tackle the government’s budget deficit, and this latest revelation markedly breaks with the tone of the party’s previous economic promises.
In a speech on the UK economy at Thomson Reuters today, Mr Balls said that Labour needs to start planning for a “tough inheritance” if it is to take over after the 2015 general election.
The politician commented:
“When our NHS and social care system is under such pressure, can it really remain a priority to pay the winter fuel allowance – a vital support for middle- and low-income pensioners – to the richest 5% of pensioners; those with incomes high enough to pay the higher or top rates of tax?”
He emphasised the importance of the winter allowance for pensioners who are on middle and low incomes, underlining the part it plays in combating fuel poverty.
However, Mr Balls added that in tough economic times “difficult choices” have to be made about priorities for public spending, and what the right balance is between universal and targeted support.
“So at a time when the public services that pensioners and others rely on are under strain, it can no longer be a priority to continue paying the winter fuel allowance to the wealthiest pensioners,” he continued.
Mr Balls went on to state that if the Labour Party does succeed the coalition, it will have to govern in “a very different way and in circumstances very different to what we have known for many years”.
“We will inherit a substantial deficit. We will have to govern with much less money around. We will need to show an iron discipline,” he said.
This speech follows an intense debate within upper echelons of the Labour Party over how to address the coalition’s perceived failure to get the public onside when it comes to the economy.