Pensioners gathered yesterday in Birmingham City Centre to march from the Unite building on Broad street to a rally at Chamberlain Square, where Peter Last and Christopher Smith from West Midlands Pensioners Convention, and Joe Morgan, regional secretary of GMB spoke.
Around 50 pensioners were joined by a dozen supporters of all ages to protest against the coalition governments policies which are hurting pensioners very badly.
Peter Last talked on a range of issues for pensioners, from the NHS reform bill, which threatens to allow private companies to play a much larger role in the provision of health care, and removes the duty of the secretary of state to provide healthcare, to cuts in the winter fuel allowance, and changes in pensions from RPI to CPI, which are causing pensions to rise more slowly than prices.
Every winter, 35,000 elderly people die from cold related illnesses. This winter, with the combination of hikes in fuel prices, and cuts of £50 in the winter fuel allowance for elderly people, many pensioners will find themselves unable to afford to pay for heating. It is likely that this will lead to more deaths this winter than usual.
At the same time, the coalition government has changed the way pensions work so that they are increased at the CPI rate, rather than RPI. CPI is always lower than RPI – for instance, in September 2011, CPI was forecast to be 4.9%, whilst RPI forecast was 5.4%.
Peter said that the government used “words of mass deception” and warned of deaths over this winter.
Joe Morgan also spoke about the change from RPI to CPI to calculate inflation, and reminded people that two years ago Lorely Burt (Lib Dem MP for Solihull) and Philip Hammond (Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield) had made promises to pensioners to ensure that they were treated fairly.
He also spoke of the upcoming pension strike on November 30th, and how it is important for current pensioners to support the younger generations whose pensions are being attacked, as these are the pensioners of tomorrow.
There was a call for people to attend the Birmingham Against the Cuts public meeting about the strikes on Thursday 24th November.
Christopher Smith stood in for a speaker from Save The Bullring Markets, who was unable to come. Christopher spoke of the threat to the markets due to a withdrawal of funding promises from Birmingham City Council. He explained that the wholesale markets cover an area of 20 miles, supplying huge amounts of food to the city. He warned of rising food prices in small shops and an increase in dominance of large supermarket chains if the markets are to close.
The march itself was very lively, with lots of banners, placards and horns. There was plenty of support from the public and passing drivers, and some people joined the march as it progressed down Broad Street.
We hope to see more activity from the various pensioners conventions that came together for this march, initiated by the National Pensioners Convention London, and organised locally by West Midlands Pensioners convention, and would encourage our readers to support their activities strongly, as this winter will be especially tough for pensioners, as food and fuel prices are outstripping inflation by a significant amount.