Norman Lamb is surely right: pensioners who own their own homes and have more than £23,000 savings are ‘quite wealthy’

by Stephen Tall on October 16, 2013

“If someone as well as their home has substantial other assets, money in the bank, shares or whatever, should they be expected to use those assets to pay for care? Or should we say, we will always defer the costs of selling their home? If you’ve got a vast amount of money in the bank, you’re quite wealthy, it’s desirable that we protect that money but the scheme has to be affordable. If together with owning your own home, you have more than £23,000-odd in the bank, the question is should you be expected to use that money. You are not forced to sell your home.”

You might think this statement, reported in the Telegraph, pretty uncontroversial. After all, the average value of a house in the UK is £247,000. If you add savings of at least £23,000 to that, together with the annual income from a standard state pension (up to £11.5k for a married couple) and any additional state pension or private pension income, then I think it’s fair to say people in such a category are “quite wealthy” by any objective, or indeed relative, measure.

Not, though, if you’re Labour peer Lord Lipsey, who worries that those with assets of a penny less than £270,000 “won’t be able to have the things that make life worth living: presents for your grandchildren, books and newspapers.”

And not, it seems, Telegraph readers who reckon being ‘quite wealthy’ only kicks in when you’ve got at least £100,000 savings in the bank:

telegraph wealth poll

It’s all relative, I guess. But can it be right that someone currently working full-time on the minimum wage should be taxed in order to ensure that someone else worth hundreds of thousands of pounds doesn’t have to pay towards their care costs. That doesn’t sound much like social justice to me.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.