WASPI & Pensions: Where Angels Fear To Tread.


Tally Ho Ginger! I’m going in.

Never let it be said I don’t do requests, so I’ll start off gently with some nice Beatles lyrics.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Owing to government intervention this has been raised to 67 and Mr McCartney requested to revise his lyric. So, what’s the deal with pensions? Well the private pension industry is Very Cross Indeed with us for living longer. The DWP is also Very Cross because old people are very expensive to keep and make a rather large dent in its budget. Meanwhile the Department of Health is Very Pleased Indeed we are all living longer but shocked at the rising cost of social care and disowns the problem. Now for some strange reason the idea of a Dementia Tax did a tad badly in the polls and was dropped so attention turned to the pensions Triple Bribe, sorry I mean Lock, but pensioners do vote so that’s not been touched either. So what must be done?

In 1995 it was decided for reasons of cost and sex equality to equalise the retirement age because having looked at pension costs the pointy heads and bean counters decided Something Must Be Done, not then of course but in the future. The changes proposed had to hit someone but the 1995 proposals were reasonable and very many things had changed. Then in 2011 after some more beans had been counted the goalposts were moved again despite some softening of stance in 2007, hence Women Against State Pension Inequality was born in 2015 as a formal campaign. Try this for a  more comprehensive explanation of effects by Frances Coppola. So what do WASPI want?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck & Dave

Well there is this from their Facebook page “Waspi ask the government to put all women born in the 50s, or after 6th April 1951 and affected by the changes to the state pension age, in the same financial position they would have been in had they been born on or before 5th April 1950.” The WASPI claim is that they were not given sufficient warning in order to make the necessary changes and some women,”who by this point were in their mid to late fifties, were told they would have to wait until the age of 66 for their pension (by this time the state pension age for men and women had increased to 66). This is despite the Turner Commission recommending a period of 15 years’ notice be given to pension changes”.

Frances Copolla is not impressed with their cause and why should she be given she is one year outside the WASPI cause? She observes  “it would help if older people stopped making demands for restoration of the entitlements of the past. Those days are gone, and the future will be very different”. the linked article is a tour de force of Uk pension policy and the aim seems to be to return us to 1908! I apologise if I have this wrong in advance but it she appears to think the pledge is unaffordable.

John Ward at The Slog doesn’t agree and supports WASPI or has tried to. he has framed the argument thus, “Those who today call themselves WASPIS were unforgivably encouraged, by almost every politician in the country, towards a belief in cast-iron guaranteed pensions for men at 65, and for women at 60”. For John a contract is a contract and it’s been broken, simple as that. He continued “It may not represent fraud in a legal sense, but it is cynical, razor-sharp practice on both ethical and compassionate grounds”.

I can only note with sadness that this brought discord between two of my favourite bloggers which is a pity because both bought perspective to the debate, Frances being remorselessly factual with John taking into account the perfidy of human and political nature.  I have made no attempt here to do justice to the depth of their writing on this subject so please follow the links for more.

The whole argument hinges on whether the issue come down to breach of contract and the hard facts are it doesn’t although it most certainly is a breach of trust. The WASPIS will for example have the same safety net as everyone else to fall back on such as highly conditional benefits paid at a rate guaranteed to bring about poverty and subject to capricious and subjective sanction without notice. There are also food banks to keep you alive in the event of this happening, what’s not to like? The whole WASPI cause is far too narrow to my mind and if the UK benefit system was fit for purpose WASPI wouldn’t exist. There is also the fact that some WASPI women are far more deserving and in need of help than others. I wish you well with your cause but it isn’t and won’t be mine.

The one argument I will not tolerate is the affordability of a decent pension and welfare system we don’t spend that much on welfare by international comparison. Solving the WASPI problem, and it is a problem, just means pushing the pain onto somebody and that won’t do. Richard Murphy laments the lack of savings options we have in an excellent article and here is his Fundamental Pension Contract:

This is that one generation, the older one, will through its own efforts create capital assets and infrastructure in both the state and private sectors which the following younger generation can use in the course of their work. In exchange for their subsequent use of these assets for their own benefit that succeeding younger generation will, in effect, meet the income needs of the older generation when they are in retirement. Unless this fundamental compact that underpins all pensions is honoured any pension system will fail.

The private sector is receiving an eye watering £48 billion a year to provide a service that barely resembles a pension and vast swathes of that disappear in fees and commissions, I may have mentioned how good the private sector is at that. It is up to the state to set a floor and the private sector to compete probably for the higher earners. Richard has a solution. ” The government would create a pension fund, or funds, in which people could invest. This fund would then fund the creation of the assets that the nation needs to ensure that the fundamental pension contract was fulfilled. So it would finance the building of hospitals, schools, broadband for rural locations, insulated properties and invest in small business and high-tech and so much more”.

Pensions need a fundamental rethink with different options for different people, we all age differently.  Yes let’s get the WASPI’s sorted and everyone else while we are at it. I shall leave the last word to The Beatles.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

first draft.


2 thoughts on “WASPI & Pensions: Where Angels Fear To Tread.

  1. I do think those who think we can go to a Hong Kong style of only having a pension pot of yer own fail to take into account that its just not going to work

    you would have to pt into such a fund an amount equivalent to a mortgage, and then pay for a larger mortgage to get some crummy 1 bed flat and pay off any student fees owned too.

    with the demise of the middle classes income , well good luck with that.


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