Free travel will be delivered for ‘WASPI women’ in the West Midlands after Labour Leaders have intervened to provide funding from their budgets. The move will be officially unveiled in the upcoming WMCA budget and will be a major boost to reduce living costs.
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council and Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council have spearheaded the move, with over 99% of funding for concessionary transport coming from local council levies, rather than from the Mayoral-controlled transport budget.
The plan has already been introduced by Labour’s Mayor in Manchester, Andy Burnham, which delivers free travel across buses for women born between 6 October 1953 and 5 November 1954, who have had their pensions delayed by up to 6 years by arbitrary changes to pension rules by the Tory government.
The pass will entitle holders to free travel across West Midlands transport.
The budget will be presented to the combined authority’s February meeting and will be signed off in March, ahead of the start of the new financial year.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Ian Ward said today:
“These sudden pension changes have caused massive stress, upset and disruption to hundreds of women in the West Midlands who are being forced to return to work with as little as a year’s notice.
“A concessionary pass for those affected will go some way to helping out those hit hardest by this unfair policy.”
Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said:“I have worked closely with Cllr Ward and Labour colleagues to deliver this.
“The government have unfairly penalised these women and this is one way in which we can right that wrong.”
Liam Byrne, MP for Hodge Hill, who helped lead opposition to the changes to pension rules when they were introduced back in 2013, said:“These women have had the rug pulled out from under them just a year away from retirement. They did the right thing, paid in and were then punished for being the ‘wrong age’ by this Tory government. The very least we can do is make sure they can get free access to bus travel across the West Midlands.”
Jack Dromey MP, who as Shadow Pensions Minister has led the campaign for the WASPI women, said:“The WASPI women of Birmingham and Britain built our country. It is nothing short of shameful that tens of thousands of them have been cheated on their pensions. We have fought hard for that which will at least make a significant difference for the women concerned, free bus travel.”