Small victory for women in pension battle

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WOMEN fighting for fairer changes to their pensions scored a mini victory tonight as a council agreed to support them.

A motion was put forward at Portsmouth City Council’s scrutiny management panel that calls on the government to make fair transitional state pension arrangements for all women born on or after April 6, 1951.

Women Against State Pension Inequality campaigners ''- from left, Elaine Davenport, Christine Neal, Shelagh Simmons, Sally Robinson, Liz Jackson, Carolyne Jacobs, Steph Lafferty, Lynne Stagg, Jeanette Smith, Elaine Hussey, Matthew Winnington, Lorraine Philpott, Hilary Reed and Kathryn Rimmington

Women Against State Pension Inequality campaigners ''- from left, Elaine Davenport, Christine Neal, Shelagh Simmons, Sally Robinson, Liz Jackson, Carolyne Jacobs, Steph Lafferty, Lynne Stagg, Jeanette Smith, Elaine Hussey, Matthew Winnington, Lorraine Philpott, Hilary Reed and Kathryn Rimmington

This motion was backed by all the councillors present and it will now go to a full council meeting for further debate.

For members of campaign group Waspi, which stands for Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign, it was counted as a small victory.

Shelagh Simmons, from the group, said: ‘It was fantastic. The panel decided to support our motion and write to the government on our behalf.

‘There are about 9,000 women in Portsmouth affected by this legislation. It’s a huge amount of money for people to lose, especially as a lot of people are struggling.

‘We feel it is a real success for us and we hope the full council will also support us.’

Tonight was not the first time the motion had been put to the authority, as it had been before councillors on October 11, however it was deferred to the scrutiny management panel for debate, prompting much disappointment from Waspi members who had waited four hours for the topic to be addressed.

Five deputations were made to the panel, including from councillor Lynne Stagg, who represents the Baffins ward. She said it was about asking the pensions minister to reconsider his timetable so that ‘women got a fair deal.’

The equalisation of men and women’s state pension age was outlined in 1995, when the Tory government said it planned to gradually raise women’s retirement age from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020.

But in 2011 these changes were accelerated, leading to some losing between £8,000 and £12,000 in state pension, as they will have to wait up to an extra two years to start collecting their pension.

Members of Waspi say that these changes, which they were only notified of formally in 2011, left them with little time to make alternative arrangements.

Sally Robinson, from the group, said: ‘We have no objection to the equalisation of the pension age. It is the way that it has been done that we are objecting to.’

Before agreeing to back the motion, Cllr Darren Sanders, on the panel, said: ‘It has just been manifestly unfair.’

Southampton City Council also agreed to back a similar motion last week. The group hopes to get Havant Borough Council to show its support at a meeting on December 7 at 5pm.

The Waspi campaign has also raised enough money to hire lawyers to launch a legal challenge.

There have also been calls for Chancellor Philip Hammond to use the Autumn Statement this week to introduce fairer arrangements.