Welfare for the wealthy must be tackled before the Government can cut benefits for the poorest, Nick Clegg said, 10 days before post-election spending plans are unveiled.
With Chancellor George Osborne due to announce the results of the 2015/16 spending review to MPs on June 26, the Department for Work and Pensions is yet to finalise its settlement.
The Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday he accepted the axe would again have to fall on benefits spending, but warned the Liberal Democrat wing of the coalition would not allow the poorest to be targeted first.
He said while pensioner benefits such as the universal winter fuel allowance and free TV licences would not be touched before the General Election because of the coalition agreement pledge, much of the spending review period fell after polling day.
“I think the fact we are asking people on low incomes to pay through their taxes to basically pay the fuel bills of people who don’t need to heat their homes because they are living in sunny parts of Europe and maybe didn’t even work here, I think that lifts the lid on a wider problem in our welfare system,” Mr Clegg told BBC TV.
“Yes, we need welfare reform. We have already made, with my full support, significant savings to welfare.
“But if you’re going to make further welfare savings, which I am prepared to look at, then you’ve got to start at the top, you’ve got to start with welfare for the wealthy, benefits paid to the rich and the retired.”
The Labour Party announced earlier this month it would strip the wealthiest pensioners of the winter fuel allowance if it wins the 2015 General Election.
Speaking last weekend, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said he planned to include pension spending inside Labour’s proposal for a welfare cap, adding later that the party was committed to the coalition’s “triple lock” pension increase reforms.