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WASPI unaffected by appeal’s failure

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A CAMPAIGN group for women born in the 1950s, whose state pension age has increased from 60-65, lost an appeal against a decision to deny them compensation for lost pension income.
Backto60 brought two test cases to the High Court last year when those cases were lost the group appealed. The Court of Appeal released its judgement rejecting the appeal on Monday, September 14.
The group’s campaign calls for a reinstatement of the age of 60 for women’s state pensions and compensation of the pension women have missed out on.
The Court found making the state pension age the same for men and women did not constitute unlawful discrimination.

WASPI CAMPAIGN UNCHANGED

The case’s failure will not affect the far better known and more widely-supported Women Against State Pensions Injustice (WASPI) campaign.
WASPI has long campaigned on the issues regarding the increase in the state pension age for women. They argue that setting aside any claim of discrimination, the UK Government failed in its duty to inform affected women adequately of the changes to the state pension age and the effect those changes would have on their pensions.
A statement issued by WASPI after the Backto60 legal challenge failed said: “Many women will be disappointed today at the judgement from the High Court.
“Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will continue to campaign for what we believe is achievable and affordable. Compensation for women who have been unfairly disadvantaged with a rapid increase to their State Pension age (SPa).
WASPI is not opposed to the equalisation of the SPa with men but it was done without adequate notice, leaving no time to make alternative arrangements. Women were informed directly some 14 years after the SPa was first changed, many only given 18 months’ notice, of up to a six-year increase, many others were not informed at all. This left their retirement plans shattered.
“The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently considering six sample cases of maladministration out of the thousands of complaints made to the DWP by WASPI women.”
Former Conservative Pensions Minister, Baroness Roz Altmann, said: “When Pensions Minister, I saw copies of letters written by the Government to millions of these women in 2003 and 2004 about their State Pension, which failed to highlight that their pension would not be paid at age 60. These official letters failed to highlight that these women’s pension would not start being paid at age 60. It merely informed them what State Pension they might receive when they reached State Pension Age, but they did not tell them what that age would be!
“Receiving a letter from the Pensions Department about their State Pension, which did not urge them to check what their State Pension Age would be, may have lulled them into a false sense of security that they would receive it from age 60.
“This looks like maladministration.”
During the election campaign last year, Boris Johnson pledged to place ‘fresh eyes’ on the issue and said he felt sympathetic to the WASPI campaigners. Asked on Tuesday about the progress of those promised considerations, he failed to answer.

THE APPEAL ISSUE

The main issue in the appeal was whether the changes to the state pension age brought in by Parliament from 1995 onwards, unlawfully discriminated against women. Backto60 argued, amongst other things, women born in the 1950s were less likely to have contributed to the state pension scheme or were disproportionately in lower-paid jobs than men.
The Pensions Act 1995 provided that a woman born before 6 April 1950 would still receive her state pension at age 60 but a woman born after that date would receive her pension on a specified date when she was aged between 60 and 65, depending on her date of birth. The Pensions Acts 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated the move to age 65 as the state pension age for women and raised the state pension age for some men and women to 66, 67 or 68 depending on their date of birth.
Successive UK Governments made changes to address the massively-rising cost of state pensions.
When the state pension age was originally set, both pension ages were fixed at 65. When revised in 1940, women’s pension age was dropped to 60. At the time those ages were fixed, life expectancy meant the state pension was likely to be paid out for only a few years after retirement age. The lower age was fixed at 60 for women to reflect their then-dependence on a single male breadwinner in the family and the prevailing age difference between married couples.
In the post-war period, life expectancy increased, first gradually and then with increasing speed.
The boom in average life expectancy means the state pension is the largest single drain on the welfare budget – taking £111bn of it in the year 2018-19 (DWP figures). In comparison, payments for unemployment benefits totalled £2bn.
The UK Defence budget is around £28bn
In normal circumstances, the claims brought to the Court would have been barred due to the delay in bringing them. Time was extended to bring the claims. The question of the delay was, however, relevant only to the discretion whether to grant relief if unlawful discrimination was proved.
The long delay in bringing the claims made it impossible to fashion any practical remedy. The Court noted unchallenged expert evidence that the cost of reinstating pensions would exceed £200bn – more than seven times the total defence budget and around the same as the whole of the health and education budgets combined (Figures Office of Budget Responsibility).

Business

Council renews legal pressure on smelly landfill site’s owner

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As part of its approach to jointly tackling the ongoing odour issues at Withyhedge with NRW, Pembrokeshire County Council has said this week it is progressing with its legal challenge against RML.

On April 26, the Council asked RML to give legally binding undertaking to stop the odour coming from Withyhedge Landfill. If it refused, the Council expected RML to provide disclosure of documents, as a potential defendant to a claim for nuisance.

RML refused both to give undertakings or to provide disclosure. Therefore, on 20th May, the Council made an application for pre-action disclosure at Haverfordwest County Court. The Council will be asking the Court to compel RML to handover documents, which it believes are important to its claim for nuisance. The Council expect the Court to confirm a hearing date shortly.

In addition to pursuing the legal avenue our Public Protection team continues to undertake air quality monitoring and working in collaboration with our partners to do all in our power to address the situation.

Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, Cllr Rhys Sinnett has pledged to continue addressing the ongoing issue in Withyhedge as a top priority for the council. He said: “Our intention is to ask the Court for an injunction requiring RML to stop the odour nuisance arising from the landfill. Whilst we are pleased with the operators decision to completely seal off the cell (cell eight) causing the problem, and are genuinely hopeful this will resolve the problem, we remain concerned over future operations and cannot allow this situation to ever recur.

“I understand the frustration and upset that the residents living near the Withyhedge site have been experiencing – and the odour is simply unacceptable, and I am committed to working tirelessly to find a solution.

“Maintaining clean air is a priority for our community – and this Authority along with our partners – are committed to proactive pollution monitoring, and working closely with NRW and the site operator to ensure they move to a position whereby foul odours from the site impacting upon our communities are eliminated.

“Our monitoring is ongoing and will align with colleagues from NRW to gather information on air quality levels both from a health and nuisance perspective – including providing early morning and evening visits. Furthermore, and in partnership with NRW, more advanced static monitoring equipment has been commissioned and delivered for deployment next month.

“In addition, we would like to work with as many residents as possible and encourage them to report any odour concerns they may have – this information is vital in helping us address the issue effectively.”

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Business

Big day for The Hanger as licensing appeal goes ahead in court

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MAGISTRATES in Llanelli will today (May 29) hear an appeal from the management of The Hangar, a venue in Milford Haven.

Following the decision by Pembrokeshire County Council’s licensing committee to stop a charity boxing event, Steve Bartram, the manager and applicant for the Temporary Events Notice intended to cover the event has asked for a court to look at if the council’s decision was correct.

Both Pembrokeshire County Council and The Hanger’s management will be represented in court by counsel. The case will start at 2pm.

At the original hearing, on May 1, where the event was stopped, the objection was raised by one of the council’s own officers, who stated that the venue has become a public nuisance due to noise complaints received. The role of the councillors on the sub-committee was to examine this single objection and determine whether the noise complaints were substantial enough to justify halting the event. The committee heard from The Hangar’s manager, Steve Bartram, that the event was planned as a ‘boxing night’, would inherently be quieter than other events held at the venue.

Speaking for the Council Environmental Officer, David Walters countered that complaints had been received not only in connection with music at the venue but also concerning the ingress and egress of patrons, as well as the noise from vehicles leaving the event. However, when pressed for details, Mr Walters could not provide the committee with a definitive number of complaints received, nor was the nature of the complaints discussed in detail.

At the meeting, Steve Bartram earnestly tried to persuade the members to allow the boxing night to proceed, stating, “Since the initial decision to open The Hangar, I have done everything within my power to meet all the licensing objectives, before any work was carried out inside. I also sought guidance from all responsible authorities on my plans and how I intended to manage The Hangar. These included Geraint Griffiths, Nathan Miles, Stuart McDonald, and Nigel Lewis. During these meetings, everything was discussed in detail, outlining the plans and intentions for the event hub.

“Not once was it suggested by any of the responsible authorities that planning permission should have been sought, should it have been necessary at the time, as I have done since receiving the planning enforcement warning letter.

“Regarding the temporary events notices, according to regulations, up to 15 can be issued within a calendar year, and currently, I am well within that limit at nine.

“As part of the planning application, I have had, at substantial cost, noise surveys carried out—one at a scientific ‘pink noise’ survey and another during a ‘dance event’ on Saturday 30th March. I have a 36-page document supporting these findings which confirms that we are operating well within legal noise limits.”

Members of the Licensing Sub-Committee, despite being advised to focus solely on the noise issue, questioned The Hangar’s management on a broad array of topics, including their long-term plans for the venue, why a Full Public Entertainment License had not been applied for, and why planning permission for a change of use for the building had not yet been sought. Bartram explained that a ‘Change of Use Planning Application’ had been submitted on Tuesday 30th April, with the assistance of a planning professional.

Journalists covering the original hearing noted that much of the discussion was irrelevant to the issue at hand, which was whether the event proposed was likely to cause a public nuisance.

We will cover the outcome of the appeal as it happens.

The original licensing meeting (video recording) can be watched here.

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Crime

Police urge teenage girls in Wales to report sexual harassment

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BRITISH Transport Police is today (Wednesday 29 May) releasing new statistics that suggest sexual harassment is underreported by teenage girls in Wales. Also today, Lex Gibbon, 19, recounts her experience of harassment in new single.

Crime statistics released today show that:

  • In 2022, 663 teenage girls reported sexual offences or harassment to British Transport Police.
  • In 2023 in Wales, this number fell from 28 to 21 reports, a 33% decrease.

Police believe that many incidents are still going unreported, and that many people are not aware that you can report any type of sexual behaviour that makes you uncomfortable.

One of the real stories behind the statistics is brought to life in Lex Gibbon’s new single, ‘Audacity’. Lex wrote the song after a man followed her through an underground train station, verbally abused her and touched her.

At the time, Lex had not heard of British Transport Police’s text 61016 service and did not report the incident. Lex later discovered text 61016 and approached British Transport Police to collaborate on the launch of her single to raise awareness.  

Police believe that many girls have experienced similar behaviour and, like Lex, are unaware that it can be reported to police. As shown in the song’s lyrics, police believe that many girls blame themselves for what happened. Today, officers are reassuring victims that sexual harassment is never their fault and urging everyone to save text 61016 in their phone.

Lex Gibbon said: “I was followed through an underground train station by a man who made me feel extremely unsafe, scared and vulnerable.

“At the time I had no idea that text 61016 existed. I believe it’s really important to help women feel safer on public transport, so when I wrote ‘Audacity’ about my experience I felt it could really raise awareness for the initiative.

“I’ve now reported and spent a day with British Transport Police, and I’ve seen how seriously they take sexual harassment.

“If someone does this to me again, I’ll be texting it in. Please save 61016 in your phone and use it to report this sort of creepy behaviour.”  

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Furnell said: “The man’s behaviour as described by Lex is completely unacceptable. I want everyone to know that acting like this on the rail network has serious consequences.

“As well as our uniformed and plain clothes officers, 150,000 CCTV cameras and your fellow passengers are watching you.

“We’re receiving more and more reports about sexual harassment, as people have had enough of this disgusting behaviour and know we prioritise tackling it. We use reports from multiple passengers to secure the strongest possible sentences for sex offenders.

“Sadly, we know that many women feel that they have no option but to put up with sexual harassment. That’s not the case: if someone is persistently bothering you and makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, please text 61016 to report it.

“Our officers are on patrol 24/7 and can meet trains at the next station. If it happens on the tube and you don’t have signal, you can speak to staff or text us at the next station.

“Nothing is too small to report and sexual harassment is never your fault. Save text 61016 in your phone today”.

Siwan Hayward, TfL’s Director of Security, Policing and Enforcement, said: “We are deeply sorry that Lex experienced this horrific incident on our network. The safety of women and girls is an absolute priority for us and we are committed to tackling sexual harassment, working closely with the police to make our capital’s transport network a hostile place for offenders.

“We are actively promoting the importance of reporting crimes that we know are underreported, and welcome the increase in reporting of sexual offences as evidence that more women and girls and bystanders have the confidence to come forward and report experiences, knowing that they will be taken seriously and that offenders will be pursued. We encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses this behaviour to report it to the police or a member of staff so that we can take action against offenders and put the right measures in place to prevent this from happening.”

Listen to Audacity here: https://collect.wetransfer.com/board/slw1b24i1i4x0o9n320240409172645

How to report

Every report is important. See it or experience it, you can report anything that makes you uncomfortable by text 61016, via the Railway Guardian app or by calling 0800 40 50 40.

Click here to save text 61016 in your phone today: https://qr1.be/X0RR

You can also report past incidents and anonymously report sexual offences at btp.police.uk.

In an emergency, always call 999.

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