What next? Is this the thin edge of the wedge? Although I am past the official retirement age, (yes -I know that is hard to believe), I cannot watch as much cricket as I’d like since I’m very tied up in the affairs of Surrey County Council. In addition, like approximately one third of the retired between the ages of 65 and 74, I am a volunteer. In addition to being a member of Rotary, a very successful public service organisation, I serve several other charities as a volunteer. In addition to those retired folk who give their time willingly, a further million or so act as carers. How much money do these people save the ‘State’ by giving their time free of charge, and often incurring travel and other costs which they cannot or decide not to claim? Among these millions of retired volunteers are some higher rate taxpayers who Ed Balls has decided to target by withdrawing their winter fuel allowance. As a Chartered Accountant I am flabbergasted that he is even willing to contemplate such an idea, given that it will be a bureaucratic nightmare for HMR&C. I suppose it will create a few jobs -perhaps that is what is motivating Ed – I cannot see it raising much money for the Exchequer. To me it is one of the worst examples of ‘gesture politics’ -ie a Labour Politician being seen to target the ‘rich’ in order to win a few votes. Last week at Lords I had the pleasure of sitting beside a gentleman in his eighties who, I imagine, is possibly a Higher Rate Taxpayer. Having ‘retired’ some years ago. this man saw the need for a particular service in his part of the country. In the major towns and cities we take this particular service for granted. Without it lives would be lost. In the country area areas where this gentleman lives the service did not exist -so he used his skill, his charm, his contacts etc and he raised the millions of pounds necessary for the service to be provided. He is now the unpaid Chairman of the organisation. The contribution this gentleman has voluntarily made to society is immeasurable; without it several people living today would not have survived if the service which he founded and he chairs had not existed. We all know that there are many ‘rich’ individuals who have repaid society in their retirement -yet Ed Balls wants to punish them by withdrawing their winter fuel allowance because they are ‘rich’. Would you blame a ‘rich’ retired person for deciding not to offer his time, skills, experience , money etc. to the charitable sector? What a way to disincentive potential volunteer for the sake of a few pounds -just to score a political point!