THOUSANDS of women across Greater Manchester affected by 2011 acceleration to the state pension age equalisation could now receive free off-peak travel with a locally funded concession.
The move comes after Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, made a commitment in his manifesto to support the women most affected.
The group experiencing the longest delays to their pension are those who were born between December 1953 and November 1954, who will have to wait an extra 18 months before they receive their pension – and were not properly notified of the change following the 2011 Pensions Act. This accounts for up to 14,000 women across Greater Manchester. In addition women born in both October and November 1953 were amongst the group who received the least notice of the changes and have yet to qualify for their State Pension and so are also being included in the proposals.
Based on research conducted by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), leaders are now set to discuss the introduction of free off peak concessionary travel in Greater Manchester for these women at the next meeting of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on 27 October.
Equality and Fairness Lead, Cllr Jean Stretton, will propose a new travel scheme which would enable women born between October 1953 and November 1954 to take up their concessionary travel pass at the age they would have previously expected to retire. Eligible women would then be able to take advantage of free off-peak local bus travel, Metrolink and train travel within Greater Manchester.
She said: “The Government’s acceleration of the State Pension age changes has left many women tens of thousands of pounds worse off, with very little notice to save or make alternative plans for the extra time they have to wait for their pension. It has also meant them having to wait longer for vital benefits such as their free bus pass.
“In recognition of their unfair treatment, we’re taking action to help the women worst affected with the cost of travel by giving them access to free off-peak travel on bus, rail and Metrolink within Greater Manchester at the age they should have retired.”
The total maximum estimated cost, if agreed, would be £2.8 million as transport authorities are required to compensate operators for concessionary travel. However the final cost will depend on how many women sign up for the pass and how often they use it.
It is proposed the costs are funded through earnback, an arrangement which sees Greater Manchester receive a share of increased tax revenue from the Government, generated as a result of local transport investment.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This scheme has been proposed as a way of helping women who have seen their pension age rapidly rise and have been given little or no chance to make alternative plans.
“The changes to pensions have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and worry to many thousands of people across Greater Manchester whose retirement plans lie in tatters as a result.
“I made a promise to do what I could to help and, with the support of our Council Leaders, we hope that this will be a small step in the right direction if it is approved. What we really need is for the Government to make a commitment to identifying a fair transitional arrangement for all women born in the 1950’s – because the current arrangements are far from fair.”
Greater Manchester Leaders are contacting the Government ahead of the Budget and urging Ministers to deliver a fairer deal for all the women affected. Leaders are pushing for a national Government compensation scheme for all women affected by the 2011 act. The proposed Greater Manchester travel concessionary scheme will be reviewed if the Government delivers effective transitional arrangements within the Budget.
If approved the existing local travel concessionary scheme in Greater Manchester would be amended and go live in April 2018, with the details published three months in advance – and comments invited from interested parties ahead of any change.
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