Martin Kirby Column, Who's Well Off? Frontline Nursing and Living at the Office
COALITION WON'T BENEFIT FROM ATTACKING PENSIONERS
I think I've finally worked-out what 'we're all in this together' actually means; people who have worked hard and paid into the system all their working lives should lose benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and bus passes, and the money the government saves 'can be targeted at the least well off'.
Before the howls of derision deafen me; yes, I do know there are many people out of work through no fault of their own and despise being on benefit. But it's no use pretending that there are not also people who see state hand-outs as their right and are skilled at milking the system. We've all seen stories of large families being housed in Mayfair mansions and receiving upwards of 40 grand a year in various benefits – and though these may be extreme examples, there should not be any such examples at all.
Hinting that he will, at some stage, means-test pensioner benefits is just a ploy by the Prime Minister to try and repair his crumbling coalition, knowing such a move would appeal to most Lib-Dems. Senior Liberal Democrats have said they will campaign to cut the payments to wealthy pensioners so that around £2billion that would be saved can be targeted at the least well off. Not surprisingly, a recent poll found that the majority of the public back plans to cut the hand-outs for better-off pensioners. Isn't that because the majority of the public are not pensioners?
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People of my generation were always advised to 'put something by for a rainy day'. Thanks to immoral bankers and 'Mad Gordon' Brown, it's not so much a rainy day as a downpour that Noah would recognise, but of course, "we're all in this together".
I'd like to know who decides at what point a pensioner is classed as 'better-off'. Lots of elderly people live in houses worth upwards of £200,000 but that doesn't mean they all have wads of cash stuffed down the back of the sofa. Property values have increased much faster than pensions over the years. Pensioners with just a couple of quid above wherever the line is drawn would be classed as 'better-off', yet they'd be put into real hardship by having to lose these small benefits.
It's strange that we never hear about MP's 'perks' facing the axe. True, plans are afoot for MPs to lose their gold-plated pensions by 2015 as part of a review of their remuneration by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa). But to soften the blow; their salaries could increase from £65,738 a year to £92,000.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has insisted that the Tories will honour David Cameron's pledge not to touch pensioner's benefits before the General Election. From where I'm looking, he sure as hell won't have to worry about touching them after the election.
LIVING THE HIGH LIFE
I reckon the proposal to convert city centre offices to flats is a cracking idea. A planning application has been made to Gloucester City Council to convert the first, second and third floors above the Cotter's Bar shoe shop in Northgate Street to residential use.
The building has been home to many different companies' offices since the 1970s but with so much business done online these days, many companies see renting an office as an unnecessary expense. Given that the city council wants to bring life back to the city, I don't see how the plan can be refused.
NO TITLES FOR NURSES
On Saturday nights, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital's A&E department can be a battleground, so you have to admire nurses who are willing to work in a real battleground as volunteers. Gloucestershire nurses, Major Sarah Price and Captain Sarah Bellwood, have been in Afghanistan since October after being mobilised by the Territorial Army, missing their family Christmas and New Year. Yet honours go the likes of a bloke who rides a bike faster than other cyclists.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
The older I get, the better life used to be!