Well, perhaps not on the street, but certainly in the corridors of Westminster, the coalition government's well-oiled PR machine is spinning away. In the past couple of days every news bulletin has suggested that the Winter Fuel Allowance is to be withdrawn/reduced/means tested (take your pick). All this to help reduce the deficit and because everyone must contribute to the cause you see. 'We're all in it together'. Dave and Nick can count me out. I'm not in 'it'. I'm not responsible for the country's financial state. It's government and big business that brought us to our knees, not me.
As many of you know I'm a 'young' pensioner so I've only received this handout for a few years. Nevertheless it has come in handy at a time of year when the heating is on full pelt most of the day and night and many people, not only pensioners, worry about fuel bills. If it was to be means tested then I'd qualify as one of those in fuel poverty as, in the winter months, I spend over 10% of my income on keeping my home warm. Would I be prepared to submit myself to means testing? If the procedure is anything like the Pension Credit system then the answer is a resounding no. Having never applied for any benefit in my life, I decided to see if I was eligible for pension credit a while ago and it was such a humiliating experience I decided never again.
If the Winter Fuel Allowance was scrapped I would manage to survive, but I know quite a few who would find great hardship in its withdrawal and possibly go without food and heating in order to pay bills. One suggestion would be to revise the Cold Weather Payment. Currently only benefit claimants can claim this, but if it was revised to cover all pensioners and the seven days qualification was reduced to two, that may be a cheaper way of ensuring the elderly can afford to heat their homes when the outside temperature is freezing.
But why are the coalition tinkering with benefits like the WFA? Why won't David Cameron confront the issues which would save money - and lots of it. He could start with the Afghanistan war which was in excess of £12 billion in 2009, then have a proper debate about the promise to renew Trident. Of course there's the vast sum poured into 'green' issues such as climate change and some dubious renewable energy projects (wind farms spring to mind); they need a little scrutiny and in particular the carbon footprint scam.
If he did tackle the big spending issues, without upsetting too many of his business pals along the way, then the public may be more understanding about national benefits reductions. Just maybe.