Norfolk pensioners urged to fight cutbacks

East Anglia's elderly population was urged to stand up against public spending cuts after pensioners' groups warned that more people could fall below the poverty line.

Pensioners spoke of their fears for the future yesterday as they brace themselves for the results of the coalition government's autumn spending review, which could affect the quality of life of thousands of old people in the region.

Campaign groups are concerned that the national state pension and other valued benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes could be hit by the Tory-Liberal government's pledge to slash Britain's �150bn budget deficit.

Pensioners were urged to rally and attend a national lobby of MPs at parliament on October 27, a week after Chancellor George Osborne announces more detailed public spending cuts.

The elderly were urged to unite together as dozens of people attended a regional National Pensioners Convention (NPC) conference in Attleborough yesterday where officials called for the most vulnerable members of society to be protected.

Cliff Horne, chairman of the Anglia Region Pensioners' Association, said the national state pension was already set to fall by 2pc next year following the coalition government's budget that will base it on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Price Index (RPI).

The NPC say that the government has also signalled the reduction of the annual winter fuel payment next year to its 2008 level resulting in a reduction �250 to �200 for under 80s and from �400 to �300 for the over 80s.

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Mr Horne added that the national state pension of �97 a week needed to be dramatically increased to help the 2.5m pensioners currently living in poverty.

'I do not think that anyone is immune from the cuts, but pensioners did not get us into the situation we are in now. Unfortunately, the elderly have been an easy target and we will not be an easy target any more.'

'We do not want to appear to be a bunch of whingers and we have to be realistic. All we are asking for is a level playing field and if we had a good increase in the basic state pension we would not need fuel allowance or handouts, but it has to be a realistic increase to take us above the poverty line.'

The NPC is set to lobby MPs following the autumn spending review announcement later this month where they will continue their campaign for a universal state pension and free non-means-tested social and long-term care.

Edith Pocock, president of the Norfolk and Norwich Pensioners Association, said she was worried if there was another very cold winter. She urged all pensioners that were fit and able to attend the rally at Westminster Methodist Central Hall in London at 1pm on October 27.

'Old people are concerned at the moment. Although they can manage at the moment, I am sure if there are cuts if would be devastating for them,' she said.

Dot Gibson, NPC general secretary, added that this month's rally was 'really important' for the pensioners' movement.

'Our generation can remember the fight for the NHS and free education and whatever the problems we have to make ourselves heard,' she said.