TOWN halls will lack the funding to turn the Government’s free care for the elderly revolution into reality, a charity warned yesterday.

The newly-merged Age Concern and Help the Aged charity cast doubt on flagship plans to fund everyday home help, such as getting up, dressing, washing and using the toilet, for about 280,000 of the neediest pensioners in England, from October.

It suggested that cash-strapped councils would restrict care for some elderly people with dementia or Parkinson’s disease – or push them into care homes unnecessarily to save money.

There were also claims that nearly half of the 500,000 people who already have care at home would not receive any financial help.

The rows came after Gordon Brown hailed the Personal Care at Home Bill as the centrepiece of yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, the last before a General Election expected in May.

The measure – free to all, regardless of income – is designed to spare elderly people the ordeal of losing their home to pay for nursing help or residential care.

At present, anyone receiving such care at home is means-tested and those with assets of more than £23,500 have to pay themselves.

In addition, about 130,000 people leaving hospital will receive free support, including the installation of stairlifts, “grab bars” in baths and alarms to alert an ambulance.

But the Department of Health acknowledged that £250m of the £670m cost would have to be met by local authorities making efficiency gains.

There are already accusations of a “postcode lottery”, with many councils denying help to some elderly people who end up dependent on friends and relatives for help.

Age Concern and Help the Aged said it warmly welcomed the Bill as the first step in ensuring a better deal for older people. But it warned: “It will be essential that councils are properly funded to provide this care, so there are no perverse incentives to either push older people into residential care homes earlier than needed, or assess their needs as not critical enough to warrant free care at home.”

Pensioners will qualify for help if they meet four criteria from a list that includes whether they need help with getting dressed, washing, going to the toilet, eating, incontinence, immobility and the management of medication.

The plan is a stepping stone to plans for a National Care Service after 2014, guaranteeing free care to everyone paying up to £20,000 to be in a state insurance scheme.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister and Tory leader David Cameron traded blows over a programme containing 15 Bills, plus legislation to enact EU regulations to protect agency workers.

Mr Brown also announced plans to help jobless young people into training or work, describing them as “the most comprehensive and effective programme for preventing higher unemployment in our country’s history”.

But Mr Cameron dismissed the speech as “a Labour press release on Palace parchment”, adding: “We need an immediate General Election and a real Queen’s Speech.”

Key Bills unveiled

Financial Services Bill:

Will allow the Financial Services Authority to tear up bankers’ contracts that encourage excessive risk-taking.

It will also force banks to create “living wills”, so they can be unravelled easily after collapse without taxpayers’ money, and allow consumers to launch USstyle “class action” suits.

Fiscal Responsibility Bill:

Commits the Government to halving the Budget deficit – heading for a record £175bn in the present fiscal year – within four years. But firm measures to reduce it will not be revealed until the pre-Budget report on December 9.

Children, Schools and Families Bill:

Will toughen up the secretary of state’s powers to close failing schools, as well as setting out guarantees for parents and pupils to demand one-to-one tuition, contact with teachers and anti-bullying policies.

It will also create a less cumbersome primary curriculum, starting in September 2012.

Crime and Security Bill:

Will allow the prosecution of prisoners who get hold of mobile phones in jail and force airguns to be stored out of the reach of children.

An assessment will be carried out on the parents of every child aged ten to 15 considered for an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) and automatic parenting orders imposed on those whose teenage children breach the Asbo.

Digital Economy Bill:

Will introduce a clampdown on unlawful online file-sharing, a push for the switchover to digital radio in 2015 and tougher laws to stop children getting hold of violent video games Energy Bill:

To help the UK move towards a low-carbon economy. It includes a £9.5bn levy on electricity suppliers to fund four demonstration carbon capture and storage coal power plants.

The Bill will also establish a mandatory scheme to help the most vulnerable households pay their energy bills, replacing voluntary arrangements.