ishi Sunak may cut the winter fuel allowance for all but the poorest pensioners as part of a bid to retain the pensions triple lock, according to reports.
It follows reports that the Prime Minister will fight the next general election on a promise to keep the triple lock – which guarantees the state pension will increase by the highest of inflation, average earnings or 2.5% – despite concerns about its cost.
According to Sky News, one way the Prime Minister could fund the pledge would be to remove the annual winter fuel allowance for most pensioners, with the exception of those poorest on pension credit support.
No 10 sources distanced themselves from suggestions that such a proposal was being considered.
It comes as Mr Sunak and Tory MPs prepare to travel to Manchester for the annual Conservative conference.
The future of the triple lock has dogged Conservative ministers over recent weeks, amid speculation that officials are considering tweaks to save money by changing the way the link to average earnings works.
The Liberal Democrats warned the Prime Minister against any move to scrap the winter fuel allowance.
The party’s work and pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain said it would be a “slap in the face for pensioners facing soaring energy bills this winter”.
“Rishi Sunak must be living on another planet if he thinks this is the answer to the country’s problems. Pensioners have worked hard and paid their taxes all their lives, they shouldn’t be made to pay the price for the Conservative Party crashing the economy,” she said.
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, also warned that any such move would be a “death sentence” for pensioners.
“Last year alone we saw around 5,000 excess winter deaths caused by living in cold, damp homes. Many more saw their health conditions deteriorate. Now Rishi Sunak wants to condemn more pensioners to live in these conditions.
“Energy bills are likely to stay high for the next two years according to expert predictions so this proposal – even if it only starts next year – is highly dangerous,” he said.
A Government spokesman said: “We have protected pensioners with the biggest State Pension increase in history this year as well as boosting Pension Credit – worth around £3,500-a-year for those on the lowest incomes.
“On top of Winter Fuel Payments, pensioners will get another £300 this winter to help with essential costs, and we are bearing down on inflation to make everyone’s money go further.”