Labour to scrap winter fuel allowance

3 June 2013

Labour has pledged to scrap the winter fuel allowance for the wealthiest pensioners if it wins the next general election.

Under the benefit, pensioners currently receive between £100 and £300, depending on their circumstances, to help towards the cost of heating bills.

But under plans proposed by shadow chancellor Ed Balls, "the richest 5% of pensioners", who pay the higher or top rates of income tax, will no longer qualify for the allowance.

Currently there are no income limits for anyone claiming the benefit. In a speech made by Balls on 3 June 2013, the shadow chancellor said: "We believe the winter fuel allowance provides vital support for pensioners on middle and low incomes to combat fuel poverty.

"But in tough economic times we have to make difficult choices about priorities for public spending and what the right balance is between universal and targeted support."

It is estimated that the scrapping of the winter fuel allowance would affect around 600,000 richer pensioners – around 5% of the total number of people who receive the payment – and would raise £100 million for the Treasury.

"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," Balls added.

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In his speech, Balls also alluded to a possible reinstatement of the top tax rate of 50p, reduced to 45p by the coalition.

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