Here is an idea for the new “nudge unit” in Downing Street.
David Cameron has pledged to protect the £2.7bn winter fuel payments to the over-60s — but he never promised to keep the name.
Surely it is time to stop people claiming these handouts by calling them something more appropriate that would deter the wealthy middle-classes? After all, the payment has nothing to do with fuel. Done properly, this cunning intervention could save hundreds of millions of pounds — while still permitting the needy to claim.
Neil O’Brien of Policy Exchange thought something absurdly bureaucratic would do the trick. Would you bother to claim the Voluntary Age-Related Season Specific Dependency Credit? And would you be able to ever find the forms on the internet?
My preference is for something much more unappetising. Perhaps the Old Age Support Ration? That would put off Ken Clarke and Vince Cable from sending in the application. Or maybe the Elderly and Infirm Support and Sustenance Payment?
As for the free bus pass (worth a cool £1bn a year) — how about the Idle Pensioners Public Mobility Supplement? It could be printed in large red letters on the pass.
All this of course should be accompanies with a polite letter, pointing out the trade-offs that are being made to support these payments.
This would make it clear accepting the payment will make it harder to reduce the deficit and will increase debt payments for the next generation.
It would then go on to explain that scrapping free bus passes would be enough to pay for the entire Trident nuclear deterrent upgrade — while still saving money. Meanwhile abolishing winter fuel payments — sorry the Old Age Support Ration — would over time pay for a new high-speed rail line or abolishing child poverty.
Any other ideas?