Blog Archives

Government faces a judicial review about short-changing 1950s women

In an earlier post Political Concern reported that 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks.

“Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor”- (lawyer/novelist John Grisham)

Waspi, a UK-wide organisation with many local groups, is campaigning against the way in which the state pension age for men and women was equalised, whilst supporting the principle of equality.

One, the Chorley Supporters Group, is denouncing the government who arbitrarily told them to work for several extra years before they can claim their state pensions, causing them to lose income and peace of mind and obliging many to continue to work at a time of life when caring duties increase and energy levels start to fall. Read more in the Lancashire Evening Post.

Writing to the Financial Times they say: “It is about time the spotlight was turned on this government, which has effectively stolen the security net of millions of women by raising the state pension age far quicker than planned, with no personal notification”.

On the BBC’s World at One programme one of many testimonies was given:

Stella Taylor: “I was born in 1955, I had worked all of my life and, when I became unwell at just about the age of 58 I then discovered, quite accidentally, that my State Pension, which I was expecting to receive at 60, had been moved six whole years to sixty-six. And, like so many women in this movement, we were just aghast. We thought there must be a mistake. Had I received my pension at sixty, when I had expected to, I wouldn’t have been wealthy by anybody’s standards, but I wouldn’t have been in the depths of poverty that I now am. At the moment, because I am still unable to work due to ill health, I receive seventy three pounds and ten pence per week in Employment Support Allowance. Living, and paying all your household bills, out of that £73 a week is impossible. There are times when I have needed to use my local food bank because I haven’t been able to afford groceries.” More testimonies here. 

On February 10ththe BBC reported the warning of Amber Rudd, the pensions secretary, which should be extended to her own department:

”If you chronically mismanage a pension scheme . . . we’re coming for you.”

After pointing out that a freedom of information request has revealed recent research findings that the government reneged on their contributions to the national insurance fund over many years and redirected that money towards paying off the national debt, the Chorley Supporters Group asks:

“How government can expect other public or private institutions in this country to play fair with pension funds when it is not doing so itself”.

On February 11th, the government published a research briefing on the legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s. up

This unexpected rise in the state pension age will now “save” the Treasury an estimated £8bn by impoverishing 1950s women.

MP Grahame Morris pointed out that the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Conservative MPs support the Waspi campaign.

He added that Landman Economics’ report gives the figure of £8bn savings to government and suggests that this sum should be seen in the wider context of current or planned government finance. Some examples follow: (Ed: links added):

FT Adviser reports that SNP MP Mhairi Black earlier pointed out that the National Insurance Fund is projected to have a substantial surplus at the end of 2017 to 2018 and the HMRC’s report confirms that the National Insurance Fund balance at 31 March 2018 was £24.2 billion and is expected to increase in the following year.

Morris ends: “In this context, finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice . . . We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women”.

Next June the government faces a judicial review in the High Court to determine whether these recent increases to women’s state pension age are lawful and the Chorley Supporters Group, Chrissie Fuller, Jane Morwood, Betty Ann Tucker, Riley Ann Rochester, Beverley Cordwell, Lea Butler and Lesley Kirkham end by warning that they will not rest until justice is done.

 

 

o

Advertisements

Carillion: short changed workers but cushioned shareholders & directors

Carillion paid only £94m towards the pension deficit but sent £162m in dividends to shareholders over 2015 and 2016.

Media reports agree with Debbie Abrahams, shadow secretary of state for Work and Pensions that Carillion have failed in their duty to ensure that their pension provision was adequately managed and resourced.

She is on record as pointing out that they could well have done so, in a letter to the regulator, asking whether they were aware of dividends payments to shareholders far higher than the payments to employees’ pensions.

The FT, BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, Reuters and Citywire online reports cover news of the deficit but fail to mention what appears to be preferential treatment for directors

Carillion’s last accounts, to December 2016, show there was a combined deficit on half a dozen defined benefits schemes linked to employees’ salaries of £811m but a surplus on a directors’ scheme of £6m.

Private Eye reporting this asked: “How could most of the company’s pension commitments, covering tens of thousands of employees, be so woefully underfunded when those for a small number were fully financed?”

It notes that the PR firm acting for the trustees (possibly Teneo Blue Rubicon taking over from Bell Pottinger)  refused to provide a breakdown of the schemes’ positions, which in the secretive pensions world remain confidential.

Several former directors – who had received large salary, pensions and bonuses -were questioned by the Work & Pensions and BEIS select committees on 6th February, including former chief executive Richard Howson, former finance director, Richard Adam and current chairman Philip Green (above) in an informative article in The Construction Index.

A final PE comment: with ordinary workers facing serious cuts to their retirement incomes, MPs led by pensions select committee chair Frank Field are unlikely to take “no comment” for an answer.

 

 

 

o

Will legal and political action deliver justice for WASPIs?

In an earlier post it was noted that “Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” (John Grisham) 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks”.

                                                        Left: hear affected Question Time audience member, no longer well enough to work (17.24 mins) and (right) the prime minister, herself a Waspi woman.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, wrote earlier this month:

“Across Britain some 3.8 million women are affected by the increase to the state pension age. Though there is a good deal of sympathy for the aim of equalising the retirement age, what has taken place in practice has been appallingly unjust. Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans”.

Guy Opperman, work and pensions minister with responsibility for financial exclusion, failed to reassure women in their 60s, hit by changes to their pension, by advising them to get a job or take up “extended apprenticeship opportunities”. 

Morris continues:

“Raising the pension age for women, often with little notice and sometimes failing to notify people of the changes at all, is a recipe for disaster.

“Many Waspi women affected by state pension inequality have been working full time and paying national insurance since the age of 15 or 16. In my constituency of Easington, the government’s changes to the state pension age will harm some 4,542 women.

“The OECD has recently ranked Britain’s pensions system as the worst in the developed world – yet the Tories are attempting to deny Waspi women even a basic state pension” . . .

“Excluded from the winter fuel allowance, from the free bus pass and now from the state pension, this generation of women are now in numerous cases having to sell their homes, take on precarious poverty-wage jobs or rely on foodbanks . . .

“The government’s given reason for failing these 3.8 million women is that to give them their pensions would cost as much as £30bn – for six years of pensions.

“Yet research from Landman Economics suggests the cost of helping Waspi women would likely be a more modest £8bn”. Morris lists the wider context:

  • Refurbishing Westminster will cost the taxpayer some £7bn,
  • Britain’s airstrikes in Syria are estimated to reach a cost of around £10bn.
  • Increased privatisation of the national health service is estimated to cost at least an extra £4.5-£10bn each year.
  • There have been billions of pounds of needless tax cuts to the bank levy.

“In this context finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice and stop poverty from rising to ever more tragic levels. We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women.

Morris: “The prime minister is herself a Waspi woman but I doubt she ever has or ever will be faced with a choice between heating or eating. Yet this doesn’t mean it is too late for the government to do the right thing”.

“The parliamentary ombudsman is currently investigating the Department for Work and Pensions for maladministration, by failing to notify women of the changes to their state pension age. If the ombudsman finds in favour of the Waspi women the government could have to pay compensation to the tune of billions of pounds”

The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Tory MPs support the Waspi campaign.

 

 

 

h

 

The Socialist Labour Party

The last smaller party featured on this site, Mebyon Kernow, is described as being ‘progressive left of centre”. This description could also be applied to the Socialist Labour Party, the fourth anti-austerity party.

18On Radio 4 recently the writer heard an impressive interview with Ken Capstick, treasurer of the SLP, former Vice-President Yorkshire NUM, Guardian panel for Comment is Free and NUJ member. Ken said the party was anti-austerity and wanted to see a transfer of wealth back into the hands of ordinary working people and away from the richest people in this land:

“We’re fed up to the back teeth of the poorest people in this land having to bear the brunt of this economic crisis that they did not create. They are not the perpetrators of this crisis, but they are being made the victims of it and the richest people in this land have been supported by this coalition government – they are being saved from their own actions. No-one has faced any prosecutions as a result of what the bankers did in 2007-8 that brought this economy to the very brink of disaster”.

The writer looked for more information and welcomed the SLP’s advocacy of economic localism.

SLP WM and Wales

The Socialist Labour Party increased its share of the vote from 1.2% in 2007 to 2.4% in Wales, 2011, giving the SLP the biggest percentage gain of the total votes cast in the election. It outperformed other small left-wing parties as well as the BNP. The SLP also received more votes than the Green Party in two of the five regions of Wales. It has also performed well over the years in Scotland, gaining 14.2% of the votes cast in Glasgow North East in the 2005 general election.

Download SLP Manifesto 2015 pdf .

Values and policies highlights – to read all sections in alphabetical order, click here.

slp header

The party’s policies do not seek to cut public expenditure and imposing further misery on working people but to make those responsible pay for the crimes they have inflicted.

We have witnessed the banking system collapse resulting in the government handing over billions of pounds to help the banks and the bankers responsible for the collapse and the austerity which adversely affected millions of people throughout the United Kingdom.

No loans or grants have been made available to help people pay off their mortgages or debts. Instead the money has been used to increase the massive salaries and bonuses of the bankers responsible for the crisis and help international shareholders continue to have a slice of the cake.

They have witnessed the government nationalise the collapsed East Coast railway and use taxpayer’s money to completely refurbish and upgrade the system only to then sell off the nationalised rail system – owned by Britain’s taxpayers – to Branson’s Virgin Company. This is just one example of how capitalism operates . . .

The Socialist Labour Party wants to see the end of capitalism, a system which has caused unemployment, zero-hours contracts (better known as modern slavery), homelessness, cuts and the privatisation of our health and social care systems, education and pensions’ resulting for the first time since the 1930s in food banks being established throughout the entire nation.

The only way which Britain can rid itself of the austerity caused by the capitalist system, its banks and financial institutions is for the British people to own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange, a policy which would take Britain’s economic and political control out of the hands of these corrupt oligarchs and place that ownership and control of our nation’s future in the hands of all its citizens.

It requires the removal of the small elite who control Britain’s economy, employment, health service, education system, pensions and social care systems. The mad obsession with the production of nuclear and conventional weapons of war, designed to destroy life, should be replaced by a commitment to save and improve the quality of life for people everywhere.

The SLP demands Britain’s immediate withdrawal from the European Union and NATO, organisations which continue to threaten, not only our economic well being, but our very lives as demonstrated by NATO’s intervention and occupation in wars in the Middle-East.

The Socialist Labour Party wants to see a world free from war, free from want and free from oppression. It wants the right to the freedom of assembly, speech and association. It wants a world which promotes and protects the environment and the earth’s resources, not just for human beings but for all other forms of life.

It wants to see a Socialist world. SLP members want to see the dreams and aspirations of all those who fought for rights and freedoms become reality; a world where leaders are answerable to the people as a whole. These demands are not excessive; they are most moderate. They only want the earth!