Fresh call to compensate WASPI women in South Tyneside as pension fight continues

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The campaign by women affected by the rising state pension age has again received public support from South Tyneside Council.

Councillors have backed an opposition motion linked to the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign and called on Government to produce an “immediate compensation package”.

The motion said the changes to state pension age have had a “profound effect” on thousands of women, with many left in poverty, as well as negative impacts on volunteer numbers and the economy due to “reduced spending power”.

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David Kennedy, independent councillor, launched the motion on the issue at South Shields Town Hall on January 12.

South Tyneside councillors with WASPI campaigners at South Shields Town Hall.South Tyneside councillors with WASPI campaigners at South Shields Town Hall.
South Tyneside councillors with WASPI campaigners at South Shields Town Hall.

This included calls for South Tyneside Council’s leader to write to local MPs and to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the WASPI campaign.

Key pledges included the council “outlining the effects of the injustice to 1950s women on the communities in South Tyneside” and to seek support for an “immediate compensation package”.

The WASPI campaign focuses on those affected by the state pension age increase for women, which was brought in through several changes to the Pensions Act, eventually raising the state pension age to 66.

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Campaigners have said a number of women have been unfairly treated, with many saying they were unaware of the changes.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has since ruled there had been “maladministration” by the Department for Work and Pensions around its communication about state pension age.

Councillors were told around 11,000 of the women affected by state pension changes were from the South Tyneside area, with a total of 65,000 in the North East.

Many councillors spoke in support of the WASPI campaign at the meeting, with some members reflecting on their own experiences with changes to the state pension age.

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This included Labour councillor Jane Carter, who said the Government had treated WASPI women “appallingly”.

“Some women can’t believe their retirement age has increased by four, five or even six years and they didn’t even know about it,” Cllr Carter said.

“I think it’s a disgrace that 1950s women, one of which I am, would have been singled out for unfair and unequal treatment because of the way the increases to our state pension age have been brought in.

“Many women until the 1990s weren’t allowed to join company pension schemes and therefore have no other source of income, with many being carers or in poor health themselves.

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“Securing work is proving impossible and zero-hour contracts or jobseekers’ allowance is the only alternative for many”.

Glenn Thompson, independent councillor and leader of the South Tyneside Alliance Group, said the costs of “putting this situation right” nationally were “frightening” and could run into billions of pounds.

Cllr Thompson added it was important for South Tyneside Council to agree to “recognise the injustice and do what we can as a council in resolving to let that recognition of injustice be heard clearly by Government”.

After being put to the vote, the motion won unanimous support across the council chamber to the applause of several WASPI campaigners in attendance.

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Councillor Ian Forster, the council’s sole Conservative member, described the cross-party support as a “breath of fresh air”.

The council’s Labour Group previously brought a motion to council around supporting the WASPI campaign in 2016.

A statement on South Tyneside Labour’s Facebook page, following last week’s meeting, said: “Labour’s strong support for the WASPI women over the last six years continues with this unanimous backing”.