Call for Lancashire women affected by pension age changes to get free travel

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Some of the women affected by short-notice changes to their pension age could become eligible for concessionary travel in Lancashire – before their revised retirement dates.

Lancashire County Council is to investigate the possibility of reworking the discount travel scheme to include some of the so-called WASPI generation of women – named after the campaign group Women Against State Pension Injustice.

Women born in the early 1950s have seen gradual increases in their pension age from 60 – as they expected it to be – to 66, depending on exactly when they were born. The changes will equalise the retirement age for men and women at 66 by October 2020.

However, some women were given only between one and five years’ notice of the changes, which were sped up in 2011.

A motion put before a full meeting of Lancashire County Council called for officers to explore whether WASPI women still waiting to retire could be brought into the county’s concessionary travel scheme, which offers free travel between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays and all day at the weekend and on bank holidays.

Labour member Lizzi Collinge said the authority could play a small part in easing the “injustice” which the women had faced.

“You plan based on what you know. You save and try to pay off your mortgage and maybe make plans to care for your elders and then – whoomph – your plans are shattered.

“We at the county council can’t change the pension law, but we do have a way of ameliorating some of this hardship. Some women have lost £50,000.

“We have the power to help some of these women – and we should do it,” County Cllr Collinge said.

Her call won cross-party support and was welcomed by Lancashire WASPI campaigner, Christina Barrett.

The 64-year-old will not be able to draw her pension until late next year. She continues to work part-time – and even when she is not working, her travel options are restricted because her husband uses their car to get to his own job.

“If I got concessionary travel, I could take myself off somewhere for the day without having to think about the cost – it would make the world of difference.

“It would free me up to be able to get out and do the things you plan to do when you retire.

“I’m one of the lucky ones to have managed to get a job in my 60s. The government told us we were going to have to work longer, but then very few places would actually take us on,” Christina added.

Any expansion of the concessionary scheme, if it is ultimately introduced, would only apply within Lancashire County Council’s borders. Unlike the bus pass, which is now a uniform entitlement across the country, discretionary decisions about offering a discount to WASPI women are made at local authority level.

Greater Manchester has already introduced such a scheme, which allowed some women affected by the 2011 changes to apply for concessionary travel from the date they would have retired following earlier revisions in 1995 - and not the age of 60.