A CAMPAIGN group for women born in the 1950s, whose state pension age has increased from 60-65, lost an appeal against a decision to deny them compensation for lost pension income.
Backto60 brought two test cases to the High Court last year when those cases were lost the group appealed. The Court of Appeal released its judgement rejecting the appeal on Monday, September 14.
The group’s campaign calls for a reinstatement of the age of 60 for women’s state pensions and compensation of the pension women have missed out on.
The Court found making the state pension age the same for men and women did not constitute unlawful discrimination.
WASPI CAMPAIGN UNCHANGED
The case’s failure will not affect the far better known and more widely-supported Women Against State Pensions Injustice (WASPI) campaign.
WASPI has long campaigned on the issues regarding the increase in the state pension age for women. They argue that setting aside any claim of discrimination, the UK Government failed in its duty to inform affected women adequately of the changes to the state pension age and the effect those changes would have on their pensions.
A statement issued by WASPI after the Backto60 legal challenge failed said: “Many women will be disappointed today at the judgement from the High Court.
“Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will continue to campaign for what we believe is achievable and affordable. Compensation for women who have been unfairly disadvantaged with a rapid increase to their State Pension age (SPa).
“WASPI is not opposed to the equalisation of the SPa with men but it was done without adequate notice, leaving no time to make alternative arrangements. Women were informed directly some 14 years after the SPa was first changed, many only given 18 months’ notice, of up to a six-year increase, many others were not informed at all. This left their retirement plans shattered.
“The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently considering six sample cases of maladministration out of the thousands of complaints made to the DWP by WASPI women.”
Former Conservative Pensions Minister, Baroness Roz Altmann, said: “When Pensions Minister, I saw copies of letters written by the Government to millions of these women in 2003 and 2004 about their State Pension, which failed to highlight that their pension would not be paid at age 60. These official letters failed to highlight that these women’s pension would not start being paid at age 60. It merely informed them what State Pension they might receive when they reached State Pension Age, but they did not tell them what that age would be!
“Receiving a letter from the Pensions Department about their State Pension, which did not urge them to check what their State Pension Age would be, may have lulled them into a false sense of security that they would receive it from age 60.
“This looks like maladministration.”
During the election campaign last year, Boris Johnson pledged to place ‘fresh eyes’ on the issue and said he felt sympathetic to the WASPI campaigners. Asked on Tuesday about the progress of those promised considerations, he failed to answer.
THE APPEAL ISSUE
The main issue in the appeal was whether the changes to the state pension age brought in by Parliament from 1995 onwards, unlawfully discriminated against women. Backto60 argued, amongst other things, women born in the 1950s were less likely to have contributed to the state pension scheme or were disproportionately in lower-paid jobs than men.
The Pensions Act 1995 provided that a woman born before 6 April 1950 would still receive her state pension at age 60 but a woman born after that date would receive her pension on a specified date when she was aged between 60 and 65, depending on her date of birth. The Pensions Acts 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated the move to age 65 as the state pension age for women and raised the state pension age for some men and women to 66, 67 or 68 depending on their date of birth.
Successive UK Governments made changes to address the massively-rising cost of state pensions.
When the state pension age was originally set, both pension ages were fixed at 65. When revised in 1940, women’s pension age was dropped to 60. At the time those ages were fixed, life expectancy meant the state pension was likely to be paid out for only a few years after retirement age. The lower age was fixed at 60 for women to reflect their then-dependence on a single male breadwinner in the family and the prevailing age difference between married couples.
In the post-war period, life expectancy increased, first gradually and then with increasing speed.
The boom in average life expectancy means the state pension is the largest single drain on the welfare budget – taking £111bn of it in the year 2018-19 (DWP figures). In comparison, payments for unemployment benefits totalled £2bn.
The UK Defence budget is around £28bn
In normal circumstances, the claims brought to the Court would have been barred due to the delay in bringing them. Time was extended to bring the claims. The question of the delay was, however, relevant only to the discretion whether to grant relief if unlawful discrimination was proved.
The long delay in bringing the claims made it impossible to fashion any practical remedy. The Court noted unchallenged expert evidence that the cost of reinstating pensions would exceed £200bn – more than seven times the total defence budget and around the same as the whole of the health and education budgets combined (Figures Office of Budget Responsibility).
Glimpse of exciting leisure centre planned for Llanelli
A GLIMPSE of the exciting new leisure centre planned for Llanelli has been released following Carmarthenshire County Council’s commitment of funding in its ambitious capital investment programme.
Designs for the £27million leisure centre, which will form part of the multi-million Pentre Awel health and wellbeing development in Machynys, include a 25-metre eight-lane swimming pool, an eight-court sports hall and an adventure play area for young children.
As well as offering traditional lane swimming and learn to swim classes, the pool hall will include innovative water-based slides, inflatables and wet assault courses to provide fun and stimulating activities for people of all ages and abilities.
The sports hall will provide top-class facilities for a range of indoor sports, including netball competition standard courts, alongside a cutting-edge gym.
There will also be a dedicated adventure play area with ‘soft play’ equipment for younger children including slides and climbing frames.
The specification for the designs for the wet and dry leisure areas follows extensive community engagement, including the thoughts and wishes of local school children following a public exhibition.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “We are excited and absolutely committed to providing a brand new leisure centre for Llanelli as part of the landmark Pentre Awel development which will provide social, economic and health benefits for the whole of Carmarthenshire. This forms an exciting element of our overall investment in capital projects to improve and raise the aspirations of the county.
“Whilst Pentre Awel is primarily a development to support the health and wellbeing of our communities, we of course want to ensure people can visit and enjoy this fantastic location for leisure too.
“Taking feedback and inspiration from local people, our designs include an exciting and flexible range of activity facilities suitable for all ages and abilities.
“We’ve no doubt that this new development will make a huge difference to the lives future generations in Llanelli and the surrounding area, and we look forward to seeing things progress in the near future.”
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We have promised a new leisure centre for Llanelli and we’re looking forward to delivering on that. We’ve got exciting plans for a facility that will suit people of all ages and abilities.”
The Pentre Awel scheme proposed for an 83-acre site on Llanelli’s coastline will be the first development of its scope and size in Wales.
It is due to be part-funded by the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal, with a total of £40million being sought for the project.
Already approved by the City Deal’s Joint Committee and Carmarthenshire County Council, the business case is now with Welsh and UK Governments with a decision expected imminently.
The scheme will provide public, academic, business and health facilities all on one site to boost employment, education, leisure provision, health research and delivery, and skills and training.
The project is planned to include integrated care and physical rehabilitation facilities to enable the testing and piloting of life science technologies aimed at enhancing independent and assisted living.
A skills centre will focus on health and care training, along with a clinical delivery centre to deliver multi-disciplinary care closer to home.
Assisted living accommodation will also feature, along with a nursing home, a hotel, expansion space for businesses, and elements of both open market and social and affordable housing.
Worth millions of pounds to the local economy, Pentre Awel will also create a wide range of employment opportunities across the Swansea Bay City Region as whole.
Pentre Awel is being delivered by Carmarthenshire County Council in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board, Universities and Colleges.
Dynes mwyaf dylanwadol datganoli’n cael sgwrs dan y lloer
UN o ferched mwyaf dylanwadol yn hanes datganoli Cymru fydd gwestai Elin Fflur ym mhennod nesaf Sgwrs Dan y Lloer nos Lun 15 Mawrth.
Wrth i’r haul fachlud ar arfordir Ceredigion, Llywydd y Senedd, Elin Jones bydd yn croesawu Elin i’w gardd yn Aberaeron. O flaen tanllwyth o dân, cawn glywed am ei phlentyndod yn ardal Llanwnen, ger Llanbed, ei dyddiau yn cyd-ganu yn rhan o grŵp Cwlwm, a’r hyn sy’n tanio ei gwleidyddiaeth.
Bu’r tân yn ei bol am gyfiawnder yno ers yn ifanc, er nad oedd gwleidyddiaeth yn beth amlwg ar yr aelwyd adref:
“Ges i ddim fy magu ar aelwyd wleidyddol lle’r oedden ni’n trafod gwleidyddiaeth. Bydden i ddim yn gwybod sut o’dd fy rhieni i’n pleidleisio pan o’n i’n ifanc. Ond dwi’n gwybod am stori o’dd un o’n athrawon i’n dweud. Yn yr Ysgol Gynradd, fi o’dd yr un disgybl bach hynny oedd yn cwyno wrth yr athrawon bod nhw’n cael peaches and cream i bwdin amser cinio, a bod y plant yn cael semolina…a bod hynny ddim yn deg.
“Ac felly mae’r athrawes hynny wedi dweud wrtha i sawl tro ers hynny bod rhywbeth yndda i hyd yn oed bryd hynny oedd yn gweld annhegwch ac yn gwrthod cymryd hynny!”
A buan y tyfodd yr awydd i wneud gwahaniaeth. Daeth y blas cyntaf o wleidyddiaeth ynghlwm â phlaid ddigon annisgwyl:
“Un o’r etholiadau cynta’ nes i sefyll oedd yn Ysgol Uwchradd Llanbed yn 1982 – un o’r etholiadau ffug ‘na, a dwi’n cael lot o dynnu coes am hyn – ond fi oedd yr ymgeisydd Torïaidd. 15 oed o’n i; o’n i ddim wedi ffurfio ‘ngwleidyddiaeth yn llawn yn fy meddwl! Ac yn rhyfedd iawn nes i ennill yr etholiad ‘na. Ond dwi wastad yn dweud mai teamwork oedd e, achos Shân Cothi oedd fy asiant! Dyna’r tro diwetha’ i mi sefyll i’r Torïaid…nes i ddysgu o hynna ‘mlân.”
Bu Elin ar Gyngor Tref Aberystwyth o 1992 tan 1999, a hi oedd Maer ieuengaf y dref yn nhymor 1997-98. Ond daeth holl ffurfioldeb y rôl yn dipyn o sioc iddi:
“Do’n i ddim wedi dishgwyl yr holl rigmarôl o’dd yn dod gyda bod yn Faer. Ac wrth gwrs gwisgo’r tsiaen; mae tsiaen Maer wedi cael ei wneud ar gyfer ysgwyddau llydan dyn o’r ddeunawfed ganrif fwy neu lai, felly pan mae menyw ifanc, eiddil yn dod i geisio’i gwisgo, dyw e ddim yn ffito; mae’n slipo, ac felly dyw gwisgo’r tsiaen ddim yn un o’r pethau mwya’ cyfforddus yn gorfforol na sut o’dd o’n cael ei weld.
“Dwi’n meddwl bod angen i bobl – bobl ifanc a menywod yn enwedig i gymryd cyfrifoldebau gwahanol a rhoi eu henwau mlân, achos mae ‘na ormod o ddynion mewn gwleidyddiaeth wedi bod ar hyd y ganrif ddiwetha’.
“I fi, o’dd cerdded mewn i stafelloedd cyfarfodydd yn y 90au pu’n o’dd hwnna gyda ‘ngwaith i gyda’r Bwrdd Datblygu bryd hynny neu yn fy ngwleidyddiaeth i o fewn Plaid Cymru, yn y Cyngor Tref yn Aber, roedd yn ddynion mewn siwts llwyd i gyd, ac felly o’dd menyw’n cerdded mewn cot binc tamed bach yn wahanol, ac mae’n bwysig dod a ‘bach o liw i wleidyddiaeth.
“Pobl wahanol o gefndiroedd gwahanol, ac fe ddylai pob agwedd o fywyd fod yn hanner menywod, hanner dynion, achos dyna beth yw bywyd, ac felly mae’n bwysig fod menywod yn cymryd y cyfrifoldebau yna.”
Funding for agri-plastics research
THE USE of plastics in agriculture has improved food production and food security in many countries. It has also left a legacy of plastic pollution on agricultural land.
A new multinational research project working with five low and middle-income countries (LMICs) and funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council will search for ways to resolve the plastic pollution caused by adopting plastics as cheap and readily available mulch layers, and for other uses.
It will have the dual focus of addressing current problems and setting up legacies to enable future generations to engage with the situation.
The UK Research & Innovation Award sees three Bangor University experts, Professors Davey Jones Dave Chadwick and Peter Golyshin of the University’s School of Natural Resources working with research groups from the Universities of Bristol and Reading in the UK, and soil scientists, socio-economic researchers, advisor and farmer networks, agri-industries and regional governments in China, Egypt, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
The five countries selected are at differing points in tackling their acute problems with agricultural plastics.
Together, these countries use 3 million tonnes of agricultural plastic film each year, covering 25 million hectares of agricultural land. They also span a wide range of climates and possess different governance structures.
As well as quantifying the risks posed by the plastics currently in the soil, the teams at each location will co-design practical, economic, socially acceptable and politically viable solutions specific to the needs and problems of their country to reduce plastic legacy.
The focus for Davey Jones, Professor of Soil Science is to investigate the impacts that conventional macro, micro and nano-plastics that are degrading within soils pose to the long-term health of agricultural ecosystems.
He said: “These plastics have wrought significant improvements. The use of plastic mulch films, in particular, has transformed the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers across the world. The use of plastic for such purposes should continue, alongside the continued development of sustainable agriculture.
“But the fate and disposal of plastics have never been properly addressed. We need to know what impact these widely used materials are having on the environment and on human health.”
Dave Chadwick, Professor of Sustainable Land Use Systems, said: “Plastic pollution is identified by the UN Environmental Programme as one of the top 10 global environmental problems and is hampering achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“Most of the ocean’s plastic originates from the land- and terrestrial plastic may be a larger problem than we realise.
“We want to work in partnership and co-deliver viable solutions to help remediate lands contaminated with plastic. We also want to ensure that the projects have a legacy so that tools, technology and partnerships which develop persist beyond the end of the project, and can be shared with others.”
Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Director of the Natural Environment Research Council, said: “Pollution caused by plastic waste is one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges, and UKRI is at the forefront of funding research to find solutions.
“These awards totalling £20 million are a vital step in helping world-leading researchers develop realistic and feasible solutions to reduce plastic pollution while enabling equitable, sustainable growth.
“Our investment in international development research aims to positively impact the lives of millions of people across the world and supports global efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”