MP’s Column - Approach is plainly wrong

There is an old trick called the “bait and switch”.

You think you are getting one deal but then the other person switches the terms and you find yourself in another situation entirely.

A number of women born in the 1950s are now finding themselves in this situation, owing to the equalisation of state pensions which is required under European Union law.

It’s not that I disagree with equalisation, but it’s totally unfair to tell people they will earn their pension under certain conditions and then, late in the game, to alter them to something quite different.

Recently in the House of Commons, I brought this up with the pensions minister and I was glad to see that my criticisms made the national newspapers.

Here in Lincolnshire, a widow came to see me who had paid into the state earnings-related pension scheme all her working life, but has no occupational pension.

She may end up worse off to the extent of £55,000. The Government should look into further concessions, such as transitional payments or even a cap, to make sure that women who have worked hard are rewarded for their efforts.

What many of us are pressing the Government especially hard for is for the front bench to look again at their proposals for the local government finance settlement.

This is the specific amount of taxpayers’ money that central government dishes out to local authorities, and this year’s has ruffled a lot of feathers, my own included.

We all accept that we need to make cuts across the board – this much is not in dispute.

But when it comes to cuts to local government, these should be broadly equal on a per person basis.

Instead, in this current settlement, we see great disparities in the level of reduction different councils and authorities are expected to make.

The government-funded spending power of West Lindsey District Council was £76 per head in 2015/16.

The bureaucrats in Whitehall are proposing that this is cut to £52 for 2019-20 – a reduction of 31.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, if we look at Wolverhampton, an urban authority with similar responsibilities, we see that its council will only face a cut of 18.6 per cent.

Hard-working taxpayers who live in rural areas are effectively subsidising those in urban areas, while city dwellers are facing less severe reductions in their government grant.

This is unacceptable to begin with, but isn’t made any better when you consider that people in our part of the country tend to have earnings that aren’t as high as those in cities.

So we’re pressing hard working people for more money while providing worse services and sending money to the towns and cities.

When this Government has managed to get so many things right – giving us a referendum on Europe for example – it only makes it more glaring to see an example like this when they have plainly got it wrong.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Gainsborough constituency