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Two pennies worth:
Why should I pay for a pensioner’s TV licence?

There was always going to be a bit of inter-generational tension when it came to dishing out spending cuts, but it seems to me that George Osborne really opened a can of worms with his spending review on Wednesday.

In recent weeks we have heard that university tuition fees are set to soar, potentially leaving students with tens of thousands of pounds in extra debt, if they choose to go into higher education at all. In comparison, those who went to uni in the pre-Blair years will have enjoyed largely-subsidised study.

In the same speech, Osborne announced the end of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) - which gave a small but valuable weekly allowance to encourage poorer youngsters to keep on learning -  while continuing to promise free TV licences to everyone over the age of 75, regardless of their income.

However, perhaps the biggest issue that cements this generation gap is housing. Osborne announced changes to limit social housing availability and plans to cut the building of new homes substantially, despite the fact that house prices are still artificially high due to a desperate lack of supply.

One commenter noted, quite rightly, that many older people will also have benefited from house price increases that would make your eyes water over the last half a century, while young families in 21st Century Britain often struggle to access the market for years.

I was covering the spending review live, and unease with this particular paradox was pretty clear. To gauge the mood, I put out a little poll among those in the room. Of those that responded, 43 per cent thought that 16-30 year-olds would be worst affected by the cuts.

While this was hardly the most comprehensive of research, it’s fair to say that it still reflected the mood.

Now, I’m not saying that we should hike tax on pensioners across the board, or ruthlessly strip away benefits to people who need them. I could never argue that a person who has lived through war and paid taxes throughout their life doesn’t deserve to be well looked after in retirement.

Equally, I realise full well that most pensioners aren’t rich, and many would find their lives significantly worsened if their local services or benefits were cut. It’s not the fault of the elderly that we have a huge budget deficit, any more than it is mine or my parents’.

But it does seem to me that the "fairness" balance here isn’t quite right – with no means-testing, some older people will continue to receive benefits they really don’t need while others suffer. Should a young worker, doing 40 hours a week just to keep their job, really be paying for a rich pensioner to watch Bargain Hunt? I'll leave you to answer that one.

Got a view? Comment below to have your say. I also want to hear how you’ll be affected by the spending cuts – leave us a comment or email me: stephen.jones@confused.com.




Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones was a reporter for Confused.com between 2009 and 2010, writing personal finance news and blogs. He has since moved on to MSN Money but continues to write for Confused.com.

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