Press release: 2,900 Edinburgh women lose out in state pension changes

Edinburgh East MP and Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore today hit out at the current Tory-led Government’s pension changes after figures showed 2,900 local women are set to lose nearly £2,000.

House of Commons Library research released by Labour reveals the true cost of last week’s pensions reforms to 2,900 women in Edinburgh who are set to lose out.

2,900 local women born in 1952 and 1953 will not be eligible for the single tier pension since they are due to retire in 2017, before the state pension reforms come into effect. Men born during the same period, however, will qualify.

The news comes after the Government claimed that “we have to be absolutely transparent [about who will lose]” yet he failed to make clear the full consequences of the planned reforms.

The unravelling of this latest Pensions announcement is the second time this government has been caught trying to hide the full impact of its changes for pensioners following the Granny Tax.

Sheila Gilmore said:

Ministers have been caught red-handed hiding the truth on pensions reforms.

This government’s pensions changes have hit hardworking women in Edinburgh time and again and these reforms are no different. 2,900 women will be nearly £2,000 worse off compared to men, but instead of being honest with the women that will lose out this government tried to bury the truth.

Once again Ministers have been caught with their hands in pensioners pockets – it’s about time this government had the decency to be honest about who will lose out under their plans.

Notes to Editors:

  • Women born between April 1952 and July 1953 will retire before 2017 and will not be eligible for the single tier pension. For example, a woman born in October 1952 will retire at age 63 in 2015. This means that she will draw the basic weekly pension of £107.45 (in today’s prices) when she retires.
  • However, men born in the same period are due to retire in 2017, and so will be eligible for the new single-tier rate.
  • House of Commons Library research shows that 430,000 women born between April 1952 and July 1953 could lose out in this way.
  • The House of Commons Library estimates this will mean that 2,900 women in the five Edinburgh constituencies will be affected.
  • This could mean that women draw a state pension income of around £1,900 a year (£36.55 a week) less than a man of the same age. The exact difference will depend on the number of contributions each woman has made, and whether she receives means-tested benefits or not.
  • See figures below:
Edinburgh East 500
Edinburgh North and Leith 500
Edinburgh South 700
Edinburgh South West 600
Edinburgh West 600
Total 2,900
  • Sheila Gilmore is a member of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee. You can view the committee’s website here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-archive/work-and-pensions-committee/
  • For more information please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or matthew.brennan@parliament.uk.
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Portobello High School Private Bill: the school must be built on the park

The City of Edinburgh Council is currently conducting a consultation to take a Private Bill to the Scottish Parliament in early 2013 to address the legal issue that currently prevents the use of Portobello Park as the site for the new Portobello High School. This Private Bill would apply only to the specific site allocated for the school in Portobello Park. It would not change the status of any other Common Good land, either in Edinburgh or the rest of Scotland.

I firmly support the Council’s proposals to build a new Portobello High School on Portobello Park, and to take a Private Bill to the Scottish Parliament.

My full submission is available here.

If you’re still to support the Private Bill, make sure you complete the online survery by 5.00pm on Thursday, 31st January at: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/forms/form/172/en/portobello_school_private_bill__public_opinion_questionnaire

Portobello High School – Portobello Park Private Bill Consultation by

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The Welfare Uprating debate – and what I would have said…

On the second day of ‘term’ after Christmas the Government scheduled the Second Reading of their Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill. This was the outcome of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on the Economy. He announced then that he was proposing to break the normal link between benefits uprating and inflation and impose three years of only 1% increase in many working age benefits. He also said then that he intended this to be put to an early vote. It was clear from the start that this was a political ploy , with Osborne sure he was setting a ‘trap’ for the opposition , convinced that public opinion would be in the side of yet another crackdown on benefits.

So on Tuesday 8 January the scene was set for the debate on what Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer dubbed the Welfare (Make Labour Look Like the Party for Skiving Fat Slobs ) Bill. The tone had been set by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement in setting this firmly in the context of hard working people going out to work and seeing the curtains drawn in the next door house where no-one is working. This was followed by a set of adverts with images of a shiny hard working family contrasted with the overweight couch potato figure. During Tuesday’s debate some Tory and LibDem speakers tried to backpeddle from this language as if they hadn’t started by framing the debate in this way.

It quickly became clear that 60% of those affected would actually be people in work, mainly those in receipt of tax credits, but also maternity pay and statutory sick pay.

Geprge OsborneThis turned into one of those occasions when I put in to speak but didn’t get called, since even with speeches limited to 5 minutes there were more people wanting to contribute than time (although the Tories and Lib Dems ran out of speakers an hour before the end. So here are my notes on some of the things I would have said if I’d had the chance:

  1. We heard a lot from Tory speakers about the alleged faults of the ‘welfare system’. But this Bill isn’t about this. Reforming the Welfare system was what the Welfare Reform Act passed last year was supposed to be all about. We may disagree with the way the Government has set about those reforms, but today’s Bill isn’t about any of that. It is only necessary because the Government’s 2010 deficit reduction plan has failed, and further cuts are deemed necessary.
  2. Much of this debate has followed a typical approach from the Government. They assert an exaggerated ‘truth’, usually about the previous Government and then proceed to argue that this justifies whatever they are proposing. So Labour is accused of trapping people on benefits – the so called dependency culture. But spending on out of work benefits actually fell between 1997 and 2010.
  3. The Government is arguing that since benefits rose by 20% since 2007 while wages rose only 10% it is only fair to reduce rises in benefits. It’s only right , said the member of the Vale of Glamorgan, that benefits shouldn’t rise faster than wages. A colleague intervened on him to ask (rhetorically) whether the Labour Government had done anything to bring benefits in line with earnings. The answer to this is indeed ‘no’ but not in the way these Tories were implying. Until the recession from 1997 to 2008 benefits continued to fall relative to earnings. This fall had been going on for some considerable time – in 1979 Unemployment benefit was 21% of average earnings, but in 2010 it had fallen to 11% of average earnings. So the increases since 2008 were starting from a very low base. (Several of my colleagues who did speak pointed out that in cash terms the amounts involved are relatively low – Job Seekers Allowance has risen from £59 per week to £71 per week over this period. )
  4. Labour’s policies were in fact designed to get people into work, including 350,000 single parents. Prior to the last Labour Government the UK had a very low level of single parents in work, in part due to the lack of childcare and in part due to the structure of benefits. Tax credits helped with both these issues.
  5. Following the Autumn statement at the beginning of December it became increasingly clear how many people in work were being affected by this . Perhaps in response to all the criticism Iain Duncan Smith launched into a bizarre attack on tax credits last week, claiming that the system encouraged dependency,. He then used figures for spending on tax credits which have been demonstrated by Channel 4’s Fact Check to be wholly wrong. For instance he claimed that tax credit payments rose 58% ahead of the 2005 General Election. In fact the rise was only 8%. Just before Duncan Smith’s own article an apologist for him wrote a piece in the Telegraph claiming that IDS was embarrassed by the Chancellor’s language. So maybe the IDS article with all its exaggeration was actually ghost written by the Chancellor? But perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this attack on tax credits is that the Secretary of State’s flagship policy of Universal Credit is based on the same fundamental policy of making payments to low paid employees to encourage them into work and help ‘make work pay’. So the Secretary of State appears to be rubbishing his own policy. Yes there are differences of detail which may prove significant – for instance the taper determining when credit is lost is less generous. There is a debate to be had about why there is indeed a growing reliance on tax credits (and also housing benefit) . Tax credits have grown in part because of changes in the labour market. Some of these changes may be temporary but some may be permanent. For instance in retail where the 7 day a week and late opening culture means that busy times are much more scattered and staffing adjusted accordingly, creating a greater need for short hour jobs.
  6. For working families this proposal builds on what has already been a period of payments being frozen. Working Tax credits have been frozen for the last two years, as has child benefit. In addition childcare tax credits were cut from 80% to 70% of eligible costs and the taper increased from 39% to 41%. This last is an effective 2% cut for the low paid and cost families with one child up to £400 and 2 children up to £500 each year.
  7. The old joke that on being asked for directions the answer is ‘well I wouldn’t start from here’. We are being asked to vote on this narrow issue in isolation, with no option to make other choices. The Coalition has already made those choices, on tax rates for example, or on tax relief for pension contributions (also part of the Autumn Statement) or on stimulating investment in affordable housebuilding to create jobs.
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