Mouthpiece: Pension changes too costly

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Government plans will hit women hardest, warns Sheila Gilmore

Since last year I have been campaigning against Government proposals to increase the state pension age to 66 in April 2020 as opposed to 2026 as previously planned.

This change would require the equalisation of men and women’s ages at 65 in 2018 as opposed to 2020, meaning that around 500,000 women – 5000 in Edinburgh – would have to wait more than a year longer for their pension without sufficient time to make alternative financial plans. On Thursday the Government announced that it would change the date of the rise from April to October 2020. While I welcome this concession I still believe these changes are unfair.

Women already have far lower savings for retirement than men – the median pension saving of a 56-year-old woman is just £9100; almost six times lower than that of a man.

The Government’s revised plans will still mean a further loss of pension payments – around £18,000 for those who will have to wait an extra 18 months. Many women have already taken early retirement on the basis that they knew when they would get their state pension, but now the Government has made changes with only seven years to spare.

What my constituents have been telling me is that it’s not fair to move the goalposts for women who have contributed to their pensions for many years. I sat on the committee that scrutinised the bill and urged ministers to change course, seemingly to no avail.

I fear that the only reason the Government has conceded on the two-year wait is because it knew it would lose crucial parliamentary votes on its changes next week. I also suspect it withheld this announcement to the 11th hour so as to prevent the campaign moving on to demand the whole bill be dropped. I will still make these arguments when the bill is debated on Tuesday.

• Sheila Gilmore is MP for Edinburgh East