Benn urges Ottery pensioners to make themselves heard

Former Labour minister Tony Benn urged older people to ‘stand up and be counted’ and attacked government plans to reform the NHS in an address to the Ottery Later Life forum.

The comments came at a packed conference on ‘Democracy and Older People’ held at the Institute in Ottery St Mary, and attended by members of organisations representing older people from across the county.

Mr Benn said pensioner bodies in Devon need to unite with those with similar concerns on behalf of vulnerable seniors whose living standards are under threat. Tony Simpson, Secretary of Honiton Seniors Council, said pensioners face a ‘bewildering array’ of senior groups which can dilute the voice of older people through their division on issues.

Speaking after Tony Benn’s speech, he said: “Here in Devon the challenge is to unite the various seniors organisations, to develop a pensioners movement that is bottom up, not top down and which works collectively and democratically to reflect our common interests with others around the country.”

Addressing the crowd of around 100 last week, the former chairman of the Labour party said about the health service: “I know from political experience that the NHS remains the most popular institution. The present plans for the NHS are something even Mrs Thatcher would not have dreamed of.”