Members of East Kent Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) have demonstrated at Westwood Cross in the lead up to Thursday’s (December 12) General Election.
Waspi represents women who had been expecting to start drawing their state pensions between 2016 and 2020. Up until 2010 women were eligible for their state pension when they reached the age of 60 but changes have seen this rise with the age at which women qualify for the state pension moving up to 65 and then 67. The hardest hot group are women born in the 1950s. They found out in 2011 that they would face delays in receiving their pension. Campaign groups such as WASPI say this has caused misery and hardship.
A case brought by the BackTo60 group, and supported by Waspi, against the Department for Work and Pensions in the High Court was dismissed on all counts earlier this year.
The campaign has become one of the issues eliciting pledges from political parties standing in this week’s General Election.
East Kent Waspi hosted a hustings last week, with one of the questions put forward being how would the parties deal with the state pension for women issue.
Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt for Labour told the gathering that the party would compensate those women hit hardest by the state pension changes.
She said an estimated 13,400 women in Thanet and Sandwich who lost out on their pensions would get pay-outs of up to £31,000 under Labour plans.
Becky Wing, for the Green Party, called the changes “a travesty” and outlined Green Party plans to pay a higher pension rate of £178 and a universal basic income (UBI) of £89 for everyone – with those women hit by the pension changes being in the first tranche of pay outs.
The national party says the estimated cost of the proposed UBI is £86.2bn per year and will be met from tax changes and savings revenue.
Martyn Pennington said Lib Dems would too compensate women hit by the pension changes.
Lib Dem policy is that compensation will be decided in line with the recommendations of the parliamentary ombudsmen, although no recommendation has yet been made due to the Judicial Review action.
Conservatives were not present at the hustings but nationally the Conservative Government has held a firm line on this issue, arguing that increases were justified to bring male and female state pension ages into line and that pensio amounts have been increased significantly. The state pension age isn’t mentioned in the Conservative manifesto document.
A Conservative pension review in 2017 stated: “Because life expectancy is increasing, people affected by this
rise will be spending longer on average in receipt of the State Pension than people have spent over the
age of 65 over the last 25 years, and on average will receive more in State Pension over their retirement
than previous generations.
“In order to keep the State Pension sustainable and maintain fairness between generations in the future,
the Government will aim for ‘up to 32%’ in the long run as the right proportion of adult life to spend in
receipt of State Pension. A 32% timetable is consistent with the average proportion of adult life spent
above State Pension age experienced by people over the last 25 years.”
View of East Kent Waspi
Penny Wells, co-ordinator of East Kent Waspi, said support at the weekend demonstration was positive with lots of motorists ‘beeping’ approval.
She added: “After more than four years of tireless campaigning i am pleased that this campaign has gained such recognition and most people now understand the injustice to women born in 1950s due to lack of notice of changes to SPA.
“In my view Labour is the only party recognising the moral obligation to women affected and offering any real pledge of compensation. It will offer a lifeline to many women. I urge women to go to the link and check what it will mean for them.”
Nationally Labour has pledged to compensate some 3.8 million women with £58billion. However, the costings for this pledge are not in the party manifesto. Labour says the cost will be met through borrowing.
A hustings hosted by St Luke’s Church in Ramsgate will take place tonight (December 9).
The event runs from 7.30pm until 9pm at the church in Hollicondane Road.
Polls open at 7am on Thursday (December 12) and close at 10pm. Ballot boxes will be taken to Hartsdown Leisure Centre where the count will take place. Across the two constituencies North Thanet and South Thanet there are a total of 88 Polling Stations: 22 in Canterbury, 56 in Thanet and 10 in Dover.
Green Party manifesto at https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/Elections/Green%20Party%20Manifesto%202019.pdf
Lib Dem manifesto at https://www.libdems.org.uk/plan
Conservative manifesto at https://vote.conservatives.com/our-plan