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March 1, 2009 12:01 AM

Christmas bonus payments for nearly 5,000 elderly people in Newcastle to help with winter fuel bills will not be paid until nearly Easter, a leading local Liberal Democrat is warning

According to research carried out by Liberal Democrats in Parliament, nearly one in ten older people will be getting their Christmas bonus at a time when their grandchildren are getting their Easter eggs.

The figures show that in the Parliamentary constituency of Newcastle Central 1,246 pensioners will wait, as will 1,351 in Newcastle East and 1,769 in Newcastle North.

Ron Beadle, Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle North, is leading calls locally to speed up payments and make sure older residents of the area get their bonus as soon as possible.

"This late payment is appalling," said Ron Beadle.

"At a time of sky high heating and fuel bills, paying the bonus three months late is just not good enough.

"I am urging the Government to ensure that payments are made promptly next Christmas.

"Making the elderly wait until it's nearly Easter is just not acceptable."

Steve Webb MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, added: "The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, stood up in the House of Commons in November and promised pensioners a Christmas bonus on their winter fuel payments, but clearly this was nothing of the sort.

"It is outrageous that this money will not be reaching pensioners until nearly Easter."

Parliamentary questions by Liberal Democrat MPs revealed that 8.69% of bonus payments - nearly one in 10 - will not be made until March.