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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 17:07 GMT
Cool response to pensioners' 100
Elizabeth Winkfield
Miss Winkfield hit the headlines over her council tax protest
Plans to give people over-70 an extra 100 to help with higher council tax bills will do little to alleviate pensioner poverty, campaigners say.

During his Budget speech Gordon Brown said the extra cash would be paid out with the winter fuel allowance.

But Help the Aged's Mervyn Kohler said the payment was a "one-off" gift that would do little to address the plight of 17% of pensioners living in poverty.

Age Concern said the elderly should not have to rely on one-off payments.

The organisation's director general Gordon Lishman said: "It's a disgrace that the state pension is so inadequate that people have to rely on one-off payments to cover daily living costs."

He urged the government to abandon means-testing and called for a rise in the basic state pension to a minimum of 105 a week.

Mr Brown's announcement means pensioners over 70 will get 300, including their winter fuel allowance, and the over-80s will get 400.

Higher share

The move will cost 475m and requires legislation.

Announcing the payment Mr Brown said: "The evidence shows that [elderly people's] council tax bills take a higher share of their incomes than the rest of the population."

Mr Kohler said: "There would be no need for gifts like this if the government was to review its fixation with means-testing.

"This Budget held no promise that the growing wealth of the country, during the most sustained period of growth since the industrial revolution, would be shared with the pensioner population."

Council tax rises have prompted a series of protests by pensioners with one elderly women, Elizabeth Winkfield, from Devon, hitting the headlines after refusing to pay her bill despite a court appearance.

Chancellor Gordon Brown
"Britain is enjoying its longest period of sustained economic growth for more than 200 years"

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"Mr Brown's critics say he has overspent and there's a black hole"

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