UK Politics

Ex-MP Ann Widdecombe on winter fuel allowance donation

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Media captionThe winter fuel allowance costs the Treasury £2.1bn each year. That could be better spent, says the former minister

Daily Politics Soapbox: The former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe - who served as shadow home and health secretaries - thinks better-off pensioners like her should donate their winter fuel payments from the government:

Every winter pensioners die because of the cold.

As the temperature plummets many people will have to choose between eating properly and keeping their houses warm.

And last year as many as 25,000 people are thought to have died from inadequate heating.

There are around 5.5m households living in fuel poverty in the UK - that means they're spending 10% or more of their income on fuel.

The problem has got much worse in recent years because of the rising costs of energy bills.

The Surviving Winter Appeal is calling for people like me who can afford it to donate their winter fuel payment to help vulnerable people affected by fuel poverty.

The £200 allowance goes to all households where one person is older than 60, irrespective of how much money they have. Those aged 80 or older get £300.

So far the campaign has persuaded wealthy individuals to give up more than £2m, enough to help 20,000 poorer pensioners.

Image caption The winter fuel payments should should go to those who really need it, says the former MP

But there are still millionaires receiving government handouts while thousands of others struggle to stay warm.

David Cameron has promised that he won't touch the winter fuel allowance, and that pledge was included in the coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats.

Some would argue he should break that promise to save part of the £2.1bn the allowance costs HM Treasury every year.

But it would be even better still if the money that goes to well-off pensioners could be spent raising the allowances for those who really need it.

But until that happens we need to encourage as many people as possible to donate the money voluntarily.

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