‘Unworthy of help’ - council refuses to offer bus passes to women left without state pensions
PUBLISHED: 16:13 12 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:13 12 August 2020
Campaigners against changes to women’s state pension age say they are “bitterly disappointed” with a county council’s decision not to allow those affected to receive free bus travel early.
Activists from the Broads Pension Action in Norfolk (PAIN) group, who are fighting the state pension age increase for 1950s-born women, urged Norfolk County Council to issue the passes early.
The group highlighted action taken by Durham county council, which spent £159,000 to launch a scheme of transport concessions.
But council leader Andrew Proctor said the initiative was not viable in Norfolk, due to the “current financial position”.
It comes as women were urged to “stay positive” while waiting for results of a landmark appeal court case looking to overturn the result of a judicial review, which found no “direct discrimination” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year.
Campaigners from Backto60 sued the government and activists said women were not informed and left without financial support.
Mr Proctor, Conservative member for Blofield and Brundall, wrote to the Norfolk PAIN group and described the scheme as taking a long time to implement, with “very low levels of take-up” and a “high cost attached”.
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And he told the group there was a “potential inequality with men born before 1954” and said the scheme was not something “we can look to implement” due to “the current financial position”.
A PAIN spokeswoman said they were willing to contribute to the cost in order to “obtain some practical help”, and said they had told the council low take-up in Durham was due to lockdown.
Lynn Nicholls, from PAIN, said: “We are bitterly disappointed that after all our work, our council have not deemed us worthy of help. We know many of you will be disappointed too, but all we can say is we have tried our best.
“We have women who can’t get a job, can’t get their pension and are stuck indoors because they can’t afford bus fares.”
And Nicky, 63, who did not give her last name, said she had been waiting since January for an eye operation and was unable to drive.
She said: “For me, it’s the mental health aspect of it. Just having some kind of freedom would make a lot of difference.”
Mr Proctor said: “We have done our best to find a scheme that is practical, ethical and affordable but so far, regrettably, we haven’t been successful.”
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