For a couple of months now George Osborne and his band of merry men and women have been happy to leak information about a new flat rate state pension.
According to the government, the new pensions system should make pension planning easier to understand - stripping out the current complex means-tested payments system. The basic state pension will see the introduction of one universal payment of £140 a week.
The Chancellor, in his Budget statement, confirmed the policy however he pointed out that the new scheme would not apply to the millions of people already being paid a state pension. What happens to current pensioners is impossible to find in any size of print, so I suspect it's not a pleasant outcome and sees today's pensioners stuck in the complex means-tested system the coalition wish to abort. With this in mind it perfectly possible two systems of state pension payments will operate for some years, until all current pensioners die. There is to be a consultation by the DWP starting shortly and further details will be made public in the coming months.
Presently pensioners 60-79 receive a one off winter fuel payment of £250 and those 80 or older receive £400. This payment is very gratefully received, particularly since fuel bills for the past two winters were much higher than previous years due to the severe weather. The payment is especially important to the elderly who live in Scotland where the temperature stayed below freezing for weeks on end.
The rate was £200 and £300 in winter 2007/8 but was extended to £250 and £400 in 2008/09 and 2009/10 and then in the coalition agreement into 2010/11.
However, George Osborne secretly cut it in Wednesday's Budget although the information didn't form part of the 100+ page Budget document. The rate has now reverted to £200 and £300, cutting £50 from the 60-79 group and £100 from the over 80s and all done without a pen hitting paper or a finger hitting a keyboard.
The DWP said the measure was not mentioned in the Budget because it was only ever meant as an extension. Only if it had been extended to winter 2011/12 would it have been announced.
If you remember during the general election campaign David Cameron insisted, on the many occasions he was questioned, that the winter fuel payment would not be changed. He also pledged to have an open and transparent government.
Secretly cutting the help pensioners receive to pay winter fuel bills and slipping the fact that today's pensioners won't benefit from the new flat rate into his Budget speech, are underhand tactics reminiscent of Labour days. I wasn't expecting too much from this coalition, but I thought they would, at the very least, honour the winter fuel payment for the term of their government.
Nobody likes to be told lies and pensioners detest being patronised.
How wrong I was about David Cameron.