WOMEN campaigning for a fair pension deal say they will fight on despite a setback from the government.
Hundreds of thousands of women across the country born on or after April 6, 1951 have seen their plans for retirement thrown into disarray after the state pension age for women was increased.
It affects 11,000 people in Southampton alone and more than 150,000 in Hampshire.
Now a new Work and Pensions minister has been appointed - but he has revealed that there will be no U-turn.
MP Richard Harrington, below, has replaced Baroness Ros Altman as Minister for Work and Pensions in Theresa May’s new cabinet.
But Mr Harrington said the government’s position on pensions for women remains the same - there will be no compensation to make up for what campaigners say was a lack of warning when women’s pension age increased in 1995.
He said: “The government’s made its mind up, and I think quite correctly. The alternatives are very expensive - we’re talking billions. Luckily we have a benefits system which helps those in need.”
As previously reported by the Daily Echo the Women Against State Pension Increase group (WASPI) has raised £100,000 to take legal action against the government if compensation for the pension age changes is not paid out.
WASPI campaigners say the 1995 pension act gave them little or no warning to prepare for retirement, and changes have left many women having to go back to work in their 60s or rely on benefits to support themselves - at a time when they should be enjoying retirement after a lifetime of work.
They say they agree with an equal pension age for men and women - but that women who are missing out because of the changes should be compensated.
Mr Harrington’s statement comes despite Southampton city councillors pledging to back the WASPI campaigners in November’s council meeting.
Portswood campaigner for the Solent WASPI group Maggie Longley, 63, said Mr Harrington’s comments would not stop the campaign - and that the group are organising to attend a rally in London on March 8.
She said: “We’re not going to stop now, after all this time and effort.
“I’m still working and looking after my husband who had to retire due to many serious health issues at the age of 57.
“It’s the inequality of it. I’ve worked since I was 14. Many of my friends have had to work, look after children and look after their parents. Some are still having to work now as well as look after elderly parents aged 100 and over.”
Putting People First councillor Don Thomas, pictured, has been supporting the Solent WASPI campaign and said money was not the real issue. He said: “It’s a nonsense. It’s another way of making cuts.”
He added: “It’s very disappointing but I don’t know what more they expect. Local councils are backing the campaign, MPs are backing it. The campaign must go on or this generation of women is going to suffer.”