Speculation is growing that the government will slash universal benefits as part if its effort to rein in spending after Chancellor George Osborne admitted the welfare bill was “completely out of control”.
According to reports, the winter fuel payments and child benefits may be cut as Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith seeks to make £10bn savings.
Such benefits have been identified as soft targets because they are paid to everyone regardless on how much they earn.
It is believed the winter fuel allowance will be cut by up to £100, saving the government around £2.7bn in total.
The payment – worth £250 or £400 for the over-80s last winter – could be cut by £50 for new recipients and £100 for the oldest, reversing a rise introduced by Alistair Darling in 2008.
The qualifying age for winter fuel payments is already rising in line with the increase in women’s state pension age – set to equalise with men’s at 65 by 2020.
Child benefit payments were frozen for three years in Mr Osborne’s emergency Budget in June, saving £975m by 2014/15, but it has been reported that further cuts could be in the pipeline as departmental budgets are set in October’s spending review.
In the Budget, Mr Osborne (pictured) said total welfare spending had soared from £132bn 10 years ago to £192bn now, an increase of 45%.
Copyright © Press Association 2010
Department for Work and Pensions
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
“Speaking as someone who is paying the higher rate of income tax, I think that the winter fuel benefit should be withdrawn from anyone paying income tax at 40%. It certainly should not be cut for anyone else” – Name and address withheld
“Again, this is the stealth tax against those who are working class and paying taxes into the country’s pot. Both my partner and I are having to work full time, longer hours in order to be able to live an affordable lifestyle, which I believe we are entitled to as workers and tax payers, whilst all the more the state taxes us steadily higher in order to subsidise those who cannot be bothered to lift a finger, and who believe the world owes them a living. My career has developed only as a consequence of hard work, studying, and pure determination and I am sick of the layabouts taking off the state what is not rightfully theirs. Let’s not talk about means-testing those who work, but certainly means test those who don’t work but yet seem to be living a much more comfortable lifestyle than most of us!!” – Andrew Thomas, South Wales
“Stop giving our money away to people from other counties. England is in distress and we cannot afford to be generous at the expense of our own people. Our government should be looking after us, not worry about what the world thinks of us, which I think is their problem. Stop these handouts” – Janet Evans, Manchester
“I have no problem about cuts in winter fuel benefit so long as it is set at a realistic level ie the super rich which is not anyone earning over the higher rate income tax band. Child benefit I am more concerned by the total level of income of a family does not always reflect the share of that made available to mothers and children A rich but mean husband should not prevent a women getting child allowance and it is an allowance which is in general paid to women” – Name and address withheld