A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the benefits – which are available to everyone regardless of wealth – were “under review”. The government is considering increasing the age at which someone is eligible for the winter fuel allowance from 60 to 65, one DWP source said.
Universal benefits, which were thought to be immune to spending cuts, are under threat after Iain Duncan Smith, the welfare secretary, secured £3bn for his radical plans to overhaul the benefits system.
However, the Treasury has asked him to make huge cuts elsewhere in the welfare bill, a task that will hit “middle class” benefits if the coalition stays true to its promise to protect the poorest.
David Miliband, the frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest, called on the coalition to “come clean” and pointed out that David Cameron had promised not to reduce the winter fuel payment during the election campaign. Labour strategists said they thought the party could “land a blow” on the government by campaigning hard on the issue.