I ONCE worked in a school where the finances were controlled by a large and intimidating lady who held sway in the office. Attempts to order frivolities such as jotters and pencils invited interrogation and the killer question, “Who’s paying for this, then?” It’s perhaps fortunate that Chancellor Rishi Sunak hasn’t to deal with my former colleague. Nevertheless, the question of who pays for the Chancellor’s multi-billion support packages hangs in the air. Worryingly, the tab will arrive during what former chancellor Alistair Darling has warned may be the worst worldwide depression since the 1930s.

Journalist and historian Sir Max Hastings has been greatly exercised by the “who’s paying for this?” question. He’s concerned the present health and subsequent economic crises will “trash” the futures of our children and grandchildren. At 74, Sir Max also feels that his generation is “a dead weight on the NHS”. Hastings concludes the over-70s have had their turn and it’s time for elders like him to stump up. With a personal fortune of around of £74 million, Sir Max can certainly afford to dig deep.

Hastings is not the first to point the finger. In 2010, former Tory minister David Willetts published The Pinch; How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future – And Why They Should Give It Back. Somewhat ironic really, considering Willetts as education minister massively increased the debt burden on English students. For good measure, he described baby boomers as “monumentally selfish”. More recently, 80-year-old former chief science advisor Sir David King warned of the frail elderly “clogging up” the NHS.

The wealth, backgrounds and, yes, arrogance of Hastings, Willetts and King mean they are not typical of their generation. Yes, many of us have had it good, but that doesn’t necessarily make us monumentally selfish. Many boomers have supported elderly parents, children and grandchildren. Future generations will benefit from what is passed on when we’ve passed on. The over-70s are not a homogeneous group. Many are comfortably off, but many are not.

Sure, the cost of the current crisis will have to be met. However, Sir Max has got it wrong. While there needs to be justice between generations, this is not entirely a generational issue. We should heed the lessons of both bailing out the bankers and the Tory/LibDem austerity programme. The bill was settled by those who could least afford it. This time the burden mustn’t be borne by the poor, be they young or old. It’s time for those who skilfully accumulate wealth while minimising their liabilities and obligations to step up to the mark. That however, might be too close to home for Sir Max and his ilk.