Portsmouth female pension age campaigners speak out after council kicks out debate

CAMPAIGNERS have spoken of their dismay after being denied the chance to speak up about changes to the state pension age for women.

Saturday, 15th October 2016, 6:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 7:32 pm
Shelagh Simmons

Supporters of the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign had turned up at Portsmouth’s full council hoping to debate calls for the government to give proper notice over pension reforms.

Women who expected to receive their pensions at 60 will now have to wait up to another six years to receive payment.

Campaigners want to ensure there’s some form of ‘transitional arrangement’ to ensure thousands of women in the area are not left hard up.

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But lobbyists were left dismayed after the Tory administration kicked out the issue – and referred it to a committee to discuss.

Southsea resident Shelagh Simmons, 62, waited hours in the public gallery for the item – put forward by the Lib Dems – to be debated.

She was left in tears after being ordered to leave the chamber for speaking up.

Ms Simmons said: ‘Numerous councils have voted to support us by writing to the secretary of state on our behalf.

‘When a similar motion – proposed and seconded by Lib Dem councillors – came before full council, leader Donna Jones stood up and called for it to be kicked down the road to a scrutiny committee. Apparently it isn’t a “local issue”.

‘That’s despite the fact it affects thousands of local women. Despite the fact membership of the EU is not a local issue but was debated.

‘And despite the fact our item was accepted and put on the agenda.

‘As if that wasn’t bad enough, those of us waiting for the debate – I had submitted a written deputation –were made to sit in the public gallery for over four hours until well past 6pm before the leader so spectacularly pulled the plug.’

While being ‘hugely sympathetic’ towards the ‘plight’ of women affected by the issue, Cllr Jones said: ‘The issue of the women’s pension age change is a central government decision and not a local government decision.

‘The local MPs are the correct people to lobby and raise this issue for local people, not councillors.’