Taxpayers' Alliance director apologises for 'crass' pensioner comment

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter

image captionAlex Wild, right, from the Taxpayers' Alliance, said he made "practical points"

A think tank director has apologised for "crass" comments he made about cutting pensioner benefits.

Alex Wild, of the Taxpayers Alliance, said the government should act fast to make cuts because many of those affected would "not be around" at the next election to vote against them.

His comments sparked a furious reaction on social media, where he was accused of being heartless and unfair.

He said in a statement he was "sorry" for the "off the cuff" remarks.

Mr Wild made the comments at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, where he also suggested that by cutting benefits now many older people would forget which party had enacted the policy.

'Let myself down'

George McNamara, head of policy at Alzheimer's Society, said the comments were "flippant, ill-considered and offensive, particularly to the millions of UK pensioners who are either living with dementia or caring for a loved one with the condition".

He added: "The symptoms of dementia are progressive and memory may fade, friends, family and carers of people with dementia will remember very well the amount, or lack of, government help available to them when they most need it."

In a statement, Mr Wild said: "Yesterday I made some comments at a fringe event for which I want to apologise.

"They were crass, offensive and made 'off the cuff' - I made a mistake and I want to say sorry for that.

"Not only did I let myself down, but the result has been that most are overlooking the point I was trying to make: that by means testing pensioner benefits we can end the perverse situation whereby wealthy pensioners receive winter fuel payments and potentially target money instead at those who genuinely need it - be they poorer pensioners or young people who are losing out."

The Taxpayers Alliance campaigns for lower taxes and highlights examples of government waste.

Paul Green, a director of Saga - a company which provides a range of services to the over 50s - said Mr Wild's comments were "deeply offensive to many people - young and old alike".

He added: "People who have paid taxes all their working lives deserve to be treated with respect."

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