Middle-of-road solution will cost pensioners dear

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From: Martin D Stern, Hanover Gardens, Salford.

YOUR contributor B Murray (Yorkshire Post, January 2) suggests that “a middle of the road solution of (wealthy) pensioners paying a small amount towards prescriptions and bus fares may be the 
answer. Unfortunately what might start off as a “small amount” would be the thin 
end of the wedge and tend to become quite a large amount over the years.

I would also agree with Roger Crossley’s scepticism “concerning Nick Clegg’s proposals to end or means-test some pensioner allowances, including the winter fuel allowance and bus passes” (Yorkshire Post, December 26).

Means-testing is notoriously expensive to administer and would, therefore, not lead to much net saving unless the threshold were so low that they were withdrawn from those whom most people would not consider wealthy pensioners.

What I think is one thing to which nobody could object, that the winter fuel allowance be added to the general pension rather than being a stand-alone payment, in which case it would be liable to income tax which would, at least partially, achieve Mr Clegg’s objectives.

This could not be applied to the bus passes but, I would argue that they are essentially a way of subsidising public transport with the added benefit of encouraging senior citizens to go out, reducing their social isolation.

Their withdrawal would probably lead to the total 
collapse of the bus system and a marked rise in social welfare spending on caring for home-bound elderly members of society so, again, this would not be cost-effective.

Mr Clegg’s populist proposals should be seen for what they really are, an attempt to shore up his party’s flagging support by appealing to the prejudices of some right-wingers who have not thought through the consequences of them.