Lib Dem wants raid on rich pensioners to pay for spiralling care costs

Well-off pensioners should face cuts to their winter fuel allowance to help pay for "catastrophic" care costs, a former Liberal Democrat minister has said.

Paul Burstow, who lost his job in last autumn's reshuffle, has spoken out after admitting his frustration with the Treasury's refusal to consider alternatives to the Dilnot Commission.

Its report recommended a £35,000 cap on the bill any one person can face on their care costs. Lib Dems believe that is unfair when the coalition is making other changes to the welfare system.

Next Monday will see child benefit removed completely from parents where either the mother or the father earns over £60,000.

Now Burstow is calling for capping winter fuel payments for pensioners with an annual income of over £100,000. This could raise £8.4 billion which would help fund care for the most vulnerable and frail elderly, he suggested.

"The saving you could generate by moving to a means-tested winter fuel allowance would be a way of ensuring that money could be directed in a more effective way," he argued on the Today programme.

"Can it be right, when we're taking away universal benefits such as child benefit, to continue to pay a winter fuel allowance to that group of people? Many of whom themselves say they don't use it for winter fuel payments, they use it for other things."

The former minister's proposal is likely to be rejected outright by Conservative ministers, after the party pledged to protect payments to older people in their 2010 general election manifesto.

But Burstow said he hoped the current deadlock could be broken to create one of the coalition's biggest "legacy issues".

"I'm by nature an optimist – I'm a Liberal Democrat, so by definition I'm an optimist," he added.

"I believe that during this coming year the government will finally face up to its responsibilities and take action. I'm just giving them another nudge."

The Dilnot review was an attempt to revive cross-party consensus after talks collapsed following the Conservatives' electioneering during the 2010 campaign. Tories claimed Labour was proposing a 'death tax'.