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Elected representatives have a duty to understand the lives of the people we represent as best we can, and to do what we can to improve things – even when we don’t have the power to change things directly. That is why we in Labour support those asking the Government to think again about changes to the state pension rules which are causing hardship to women born in the 1950s.

The gender pay gap has made the headlines recently. This gap was much greater in the past, meaning that older women had less to put by for retirement, or to pay in to an occupational pension. To help the family budget, many women opted not to pay in to an occupational pension, anticipating receiving the State Pension at age 60.

Of course, the State Pension Age (SPA) should be the same for women and men, but the way the changes have been brought in is unfair. There was little, or no notice given, and the changes were brought in sooner than originally planned. This gave women no chance to rethink retirement plans. Due to changes to the SPA itself, some women will not be able to claim their pension until several years later than they expected.

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign is asking for a ‘bridging’ pension to provide an income until women reach the (new) State Pension age, and compensation for losses for those women who have already reached their SPA.

We are not asking for something to which we are not entitled. Women’s contribution to the economy has always been as important as men’s – even though much of that contribution has gone unrecognised and unpaid. The unpaid ‘caring work’ alone, that has been done by women, has saved the state billions, and so it could be argued that we have earned many times over what the ‘WASPI women’ are asking for. So far, the Government has refused to respond to concerns that have been raised, but women are used to having to struggle to be heard, and the WASPI campaign will continue! 

CllrKarenSudan.jpgCllr Karen Sudan

Labour, West Green

Gender pay gap

Elected representatives have a duty to understand the lives of the people we represent as best we can, and to do what we can to improve things – even when...

According to a recent survey, Finland is the happiest country in the world, with the United Kingdom ranking 19th for happiness. Surprising, perhaps, because we are one of the richest countries in the world. Not surprising, maybe, as we have endured eight years of Austerity, declining living standards and for many, very little increase in their income. This may be one of the richest countries, but if it is correct that more of that wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer people, then it follows that those who are now getting by, just, are not feeling particularly happy. Let alone those who are not getting by at all.

A recent explanation of the happiness of Finland, & other Scandinavian countries, is a lack of inequality, and also strong societies with communities where collective endeavour is more valued than individualism.

I think that local government has a role to play in enabling communities to come together, and I have always supported our Council’s work to further ‘social cohesion’- through neighbourhood forums, Let’s Face It events and my own favourite, Crawley parks’ ‘Friends’ groups.

It was on a warm summer evening back in 2004 when the first ‘Friends’ group was formed in Goffs Park. The group is still going 14 years later, & now there are ‘Friends’ groups for all of Crawley’s major parks. The groups complement the Council’s work in maintaining the parks, doing work which the Council may not otherwise have the resources to do. The huge amount of invasive rhododendron which the ‘Friends of Broadfield Park’ have cleared springs to mind- work which has replaced a sterile environment with one which opens up new views in the park & gives wildlife a chance to flourish. A Saturday morning working in Broadfield Park is like going to an outdoor gym, without the membership fee.

Of course, the Council does not expect that Crawley’s parks should be run by volunteers; that would be unrealistic, and unfair.

‘Community development’ was very popular in local government , until Austerity began to bite. I prefer to think of it as helping residents create communities, and even though funding is short it need not cost a great deal, especially in terms of the benefits it can offer to everyone.

Crawley may never achieve the levels of ‘hygge’ enjoyed by the residents of Copenhagen or Helsinki, but by taking part in our communities, we can have a great time trying.

Cllr Ian Irvine,

Broadfield North  

Building Crawley's community - Scandi-style?

According to a recent survey, Finland is the happiest country in the world, with the United Kingdom ranking 19th for happiness. Surprising, perhaps, because we are one of the richest...

In 1910, an international conference of socialist women decided that an annual day for women should be held, highlighting gender-based inequalities. The following year saw the first International Women's Day and since 1914 it has taken place globally every 8th March.

While progress has been made over the years, not least around female suffrage, inequalities persist. #MeToo highlighted the scale of hidden sexual violence and the ongoing failure of our systems to provide justice to those affected by discrimination.

Yet, inequalities also remain in the open. Organisations employing more than 250 people are now required to publish gender pay gap figures, which across the UK is currently estimated to be around 18.4%. Unfortunately the picture in Crawley is somewhat worse.

While Crawley Borough Council has a median gender pay gap of 0%, meaning that across the council as a whole the average wages of men and women are the same, figures suggest the town itself has the second largest pay gap in the UK, with the average wages in Crawley for male employees being half again what their female colleagues earn. That impact on take home pay is before we consider the fact that cuts to public services and social security have impacted women harder than men over the last eight years.

Only a Labour Government is committing to closing the gap, requiring companies employing over 250 workers to show what action they are taking to deliver pay equality or else face fines. There will be those who claim this is illiberal or anti-business, yet Governments are required to act when systems fail to fix themselves and the same objections have been made every time an individual has sought to be judged on their merits and not the circumstances of their birth. Ultimately, enough ink has been spilt discussing the problem, a Labour Government will act.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Solving the pay gap

In 1910, an international conference of socialist women decided that an annual day for women should be held, highlighting gender-based inequalities. The following year saw the first International Women's Day...

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