PENSIONERS used a vegetable to highlight their anger when a Government minister failed to turn up at their conference.
Care minister Paul Burstow had been due to address the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens yesterday.
But when he cancelled his appearance, a cabbage was installed on the panel in his place.
Neil Duncan-Jordan, national officer for the NPC, said: “The arrangement had been in place for months and we only got an email on Friday from the minister’s PA saying he could not attend.
“We asked if he could come another day, or send a deputy, but were told this was not possible.
“People feel it shows a lack of courtesy and respect and that’s something older people set a lot of store by.
“They feel they have been treated with disdain – hence the cabbage.”
Mr Burstow said he had been forced to cancel his appearance after the Labour Party called a Parliamentary debate on social care at short notice.
He added: “I was disappointed to have to cancel my attendance at the Pensions Parliament.
“As explained to the National Pensioner’s Convention, ministers are first and foremost accountable to Parliament, and I had to respond to a Parliamentary debate.
“I am passionate about the need to improve the care of older people. I have already supported the National Pensioner’s Convention dignity code and from October the Government is implementing a ban on age discrimination to root out ageist attitudes in health and social care.”
But delegates said they were disappointed they could not raise key issues with the minister.
Keith Barton, of the North West Pensioners Convention, said: “Delegates have come to the Parliament to listen to what he has got to say and they wanted to put things to him, and they had that opportunity taken away from them.
“Issues such as malnutrition among elderly people and the cost of care homes are very important and there would have been a lot of questions to put to the minister.
“When the panel went on stage, we put a cabbage which I had bought from Abingdon Street Market in his place. It has got a noise and mouth, and two false eyes and we put a card next to it saying ‘Paul Burstow – minister of excuses.’
“We got as much sense out of the cabbage as the minister. It was tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time a serious gesture.”
More than 1,000 delegates from all over the country have taken part in the conference which was launched with a march through Blackpool town centre on Tuesday.
Last year delegates were addressed by the Pensions Minister.