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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 18:30 GMT
Cool welcome for Brown's sweeteners
Pensioners and low income groups have given a cautious welcome to Gordon Brown's pre-Budget statement.

Gordon Lishman, Director General, Age Concern England, said the pension credit system added "another layer of complexity to the already complicated benefits system".

Chancellor Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown...loosening the purse strings

Help the Aged welcomed the "modest" rises in the state pension but damned pension credits as "complex and arbitrary".

Markie Wright, 75, from Twickenham, south west London, said most of Mr Brown's news was positive but he also criticised the complexity of means-tested benefits such as the minimum income guarantee, which she received.

She told BBC News Online: "It is good news, I think - although I'm not quite sure I understand all of it.

"They recently reduced the 40 pages of forms I had to fill in to 10, which is a good thing. But I'm 76 and I was asked twice last year whether I was pregnant."

Winter fuel help

Mrs Wright welcomed the fact that the basic state pension would rise by about 3 a week next year and would increase at least in line with inflation by 2003.

She said last 75p a week rise had ben "insulting".

But she questioned why moves like this could not have been put in place sooner.


What's the point of making you wait until you're 75, you're practically dead by then

Pensioner Markie Wright on the free TV licence

She said she did not know if she would be around by the time some of the rises took effect and joked: "I want these things now, not when I'm pushing up the daisies."

Mrs Wright also welcomed the news that the pensioners' 200 winter fuel payment would stay through to the next general election.

She said: "I'm glad this is to stay, because it is a great help to me.

"It doesn't cover all my fuel costs - I try to save 10 a week throughout the year to pay for it all. But it has made a difference - before we got that I had to live in one room in winter, practically."

Mrs Wright said the free television licence for the under-75s should be made available at 70.

She said: "What's the point of making you wait until you're 75, you're practically dead by then.

"These people have been paying their licences for years and years and years, they should get something sooner."

Child poverty

Mr Brown gave only a broad outline of his plans for tackling child poverty, ahead of new legislation later this week.

Lone parent Hazel Tofti
Hazel Tofti felt "incentivised" by the working families' tax credit

But pressure groups representing low income groups broadly welcomed the signals that he gave.

Martin Barnes, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "It's a clear restatement of his commitment to tackle child poverty.

"He seems to be going in broadly the right direction - although we'll have to wait until next March's budget statement when he starts talking cash and amounts."

Lone parent Hazel Tofti said the working families tax credit had been working for her and she would "definitely" give the chancellor the thumbs-up.

She was just about to go back to work after having three children.

Ms Tofti said: "I should be OK once I start, hopefully. However a lot of my friends have tried it and it hasn't worked.

"It is very complicated - the forms to fill out, etcetera, and not widely publicised, so not good for everybody."

The children's charity Barnardo's thought the autumn statement did not go far enough.

Their Director of Children's Services, Nigel Bennett, said: "The government assumes that families will lift themselves out of poverty by obtaining work, but many working families remain close to, or below, the poverty line.

"There are also many people for whom work is not an option, either because the jobs are not there or they are disabled or have caring responsibilities."

The government's pre-Budget report will be on 27 Novewmber


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See also:

21 Nov 01 | UK Politics
18 Oct 01 | Business
25 Sep 00 | Business
26 Nov 01 | Business
20 Jul 01 | Business
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