Monday 1 October 2012

The war of Mick Jagger's bus pass

One of the more risible announcements to come out of Lib Dem Conference was the revival of the notion that there are millions of "wealthy" people out there who should not be receiving benefits, that there are somehow shedloads of savings to made if we just means-tested universal benefits, particular those which go to pensioners.

Invariably , the example of some rich famous person will be wheeled out, supposedly to justify this position.  Sometimes it might be Mick Jagger, or maybe Alan Sugar - super-rich older people who theoretically could get certain benefits like bus passes and winter fuel payments - you can just see Mick queuing up at the town hall for a bus pass can't you?

In reality, significant savings are only possible if these cuts are carried well down the income scale. So all Nick Clegg has achieved is to worry thousands of low-income pensioners that they are about to lose benefits which help to make life reasonably civilised.

The other point which is always overlooked is the cost of actually means-testing benefits - a whole bureaucracy would need to be set up to administer it.   These benefits operate efficiently and simply - they are cheap to administer.   If we want rich people to pay their way, making sure they pay their proper share of tax would be a more appropriate start - yet the Lib Dems have voted to give a massive tax cut to the richest.  And of course we all know which group gets the biggest non means tested subsidy for transport and household expenses......don't we?

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