Friday, 2 March 2012

Well, well welfare reform to upset mobile pensioners

ERE’S to our pensioners, freewheel burning through the highways and byways on buses and trains thanks to free public transport from the ever generous Norn Iron Executive, spending their hard-earned state welfare pension and income monies on sweetie snacks for their far-flung grandchildren and great nephews and nieces.

But hold on there – what’s this! Welfare reform means that some money has to be re-allocated to the needy. The thinking being that some pensioners are not so needy…

Well string us up in a flat cap, stick a pipe in our gobs and we’ll tell ya a tale of past hopes and glory.

Many of our pensioners have worked all their days to enjoy retirement, contributing to the national purse through their taxes and national insurance. Indeed their private pensions are currently being taxed too.

So, some mandarin in Whitehall and a pencil pusher in Stormont is sitting in a darkened room with a calculator, abacus and an accounting book working out how to sort out who gets what. A figure of £300m emerged to make sure the right people won out and the wrong people didn’t.

But, and here’s the rub, to decide who is entitled to free transport requires an administration team, with all the audit trails, checks and balances and loads of public sector workers. While this all seems reasonable, it will cost a fortune. How many managers will be required for this? How many trained bean counters will be required? How many administration staff will be required?

It would be our guess that it would be a considerable chunk of change that will eat into the £300m that ‘needs to be’ re-allocated.

So let’s not pick on grandpa and grandma. Celebrate their ability to roam far and wide spending their meagre pensions.

And, let’s face it, many of us are not too far away from when we will be considering whether we’ll be getting our pension and free bus pass. We’ve always wanted to visit Ballygobackwards in Co. Tyrone for ourselves.