Nick Clegg was left embarrassed after denying that the coalition had made cuts in pensioners’ winter fuel payments in the this week's Budget.
Clegg had claimed that the coalition had increased winter fuel payments, despite the Treasury confirming they will be cut. Under plans confirmed earlier this week, pensioners will lose up to £100 in winter fuel payments this year, designed to help them heat their homes while domestic fuel bills are rising.
The payments have been renewed in every Budget since 2008, in the face of high oil prices. The elderly have been able to claim £250 towards winter fuel bills, while those aged 80 or over could claim £400. This year the payments will be reduced to £200 and £300 per household.
When asked about the cuts Clegg initially dismissed questions as “wild allegations” made by Ed Balls, the Labour shadow chancellor. Clegg said of Mr Balls: "Honestly, I don't know what he's on about. He keeps sort of throwing around a lot of sort of wild allegations ... we have increased winter fuel payments.”
But s spokesman for Clegg later clarified the position:
"The changes to winter fuel payments were not technically a "cut," but instead a decision not to continue what had been intended originally as a temporary measure."
That "Yes Minister" type logic would be funny if it wasn't so hurtful to many pensioners who struggle to meet the high cost of heating their homes.