Pension changes and the cost of living dominate Steve’s Billesley Report Back

Billesley residents attended Steve’s latest Report Back event at Yardley Wood Baptist Church on Thursday 24 January 2013.


It was a lively session covering a range of issues but dominated by concerns about the government’s proposals to change state pensions and whether or not they are fair.


Steve gave an update on his recent work in Westminster and the constituency which covered: policing, government plans to change anti-social behaviour legislation (ASB is a big issue in Billesley), Operation Mastiff and results of Steve’s local policing survey; elderly care, the current state of government proposals, what can be done locally and the work Steve is doing on this issue; the scandal of inadequate social care and the spiralling costs of residential care. A recent survey showed constituents were very concerned about the waiting times for assessments, quality of assessments and the cost of care packages. Steve also reported on Labour’s plans for a total integrated care system within the NHS.


He also updated constituents on what’s happening about energy bills and his campaign to cut costs; votes at 16; and, benefits and government plans for pensions.


In the question and answer session, a large number of constituents raised issues about government plans to change the state pension arrangements. Many will lose out under the proposals, particularly women whose birthdays fall between April 1952 and July 1953 and those who reach pensionable age immediately prior to the new plans coming into effect. One woman pointed out that she stood to lose over £2,000 a year. Steve said he supported transitional arrangements to help people in her position and would press the government on it. Some people also raised concerns that they may not be credited for the amount of money they have contributed as they are moved from the old to the new system after April 2017. Young people currently in their 20s are also likely to lose out.


There was discussion about the increases in the cost of living as austerity continues to bite. Local people are struggling with rising food, energy and fuel costs while wages and in-work benefits like tax credits are being cut. Many of those in work are working far fewer hours than they need to work in order to make ends meet. There was also a call to renationalise the energy companies.


Some people felt that a new ‘working poor’ is emerging with families in-work being forced to rely on food banks because they don’t have enough money at the end of the week.


Concern was expressed about what will happen to immigration when the current controls limiting the number of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals entitled to come to Britain expire.


Other issues that were raised included: the absence of an industrial policy to help places like Birmingham; help for small businesses; and, the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.


Speaking after the event, Steve said:


“I really do look forward to my Report Back events. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the Westminster bubble, so I enjoy any opportunity I can to touch base with constituents and hear their views.


“Those who attended made a number of very important points on Thursday; and I hope to raise some of the points in parliament and use them to inform my work over the coming months.

“I look forward to my next Report Back event in February.”

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