The CSPA and Napo Retired Members’ Project

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The CSPA and Napo Retired Members’ Project

The Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance’s deputy general secretary, Ralph Groves (pictured on the left), writes for NM about the important work of the Alliance, and how Napo members can get involved.

The CSPA has been working in conjunction with the Napo National Executive Committee for the last two to three years to promote the benefits of CSPA membership to Napo’s retired members.

The CSPA was specifically set up in 1953 to look after the interests of retired civil servants  and to lobby to improve the levels of civil service pensions because they had been very seriously devalued due to inflation. The CSPA is the body formally recognised by the Cabinet Office and other government departments and agencies as speaking on behalf of retired civil servants and those pensioners from related pension schemes.

Government’s pension plans challenged in court

With full pension inflation indexation being achieved in 1972 using the only measure of inflation available at that time the Retail Prices Index (RPI), both civil service and other public-sector pensions were protected from the effects of inflation by the RPI until 2010. This was when the chancellor of the exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, announced the change of inflation index to be used for civil service and public service pensions from the RPI to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

The CSPA led a legal challenge involving other public service pensioner organisations and public-sector trade unions to oppose this change which had been introduced without any prior consultation. Although the legal challenge in the High Court won the support of one of the three judges, on appeal the government won.  The Master of the Rolls explained in a forty-page judgement that the secretary of state had the power to change the inflation index because no definition of the index to be used had ever been referred to in the original pension indexation legislation. Perhaps an understandable oversight given that only RPI existed at the time the original legislation was enacted.

In the light of the outcome of the appeal it was decided not to take the legal challenge any further, but hopefully it did prove the point to the government that any such changes proposed in the future would be challenged. The change to CPI  effectively saved between 0.5% to 1.5% per annum in civil service and public service pension increase costs because CPI measures different elements using a geometric formula rather than the arithmetical one used by the RPI. CPI was never intended to measure domestic inflation despite Government claims to the contrary since it was originally introduced as an EU measure of inflation.

The CPI and its suitability for use as a domestic measure of inflation has been the subject of investigation by the Office of National Statistics which has suggested that perhaps CPI(H) which includes some housing costs such as Council Tax and rental costs might be a more appropriate index, the ONS has also been exploring the possible introduction of a Household Inflation Index. Whatever the future may hold regarding pension inflation indexation, the key aspect is that there is a common measure used for both raising the level of pensions as well as prices charged by the utility companies, which all use RPI or RPI plus to increase their prices. Whether you travel by train, use electricity or gas, have a mobile phone or just an ordinary landline, all of these companies and a wide range of other service providers use RPI to increase their prices. Not only are civil service and other public sector pension schemes held down to the lower increases determined by the  CPI, but prices increase by the higher rated RPI, this discrepancy also applies to  State Retirement Pensions as well.

Lobbying for quality of life for all pensioners

Whilst the issues of occupational and state pension provisions and increases are clearly the major reason for the existence of CSPA, the Alliance is also fully involved with other campaigning and lobbying work to achieve improvements to the lives of all pensioners. This has been achieved through affiliations to bodies such as the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC), the Public Service Pensioners’ Council (PSPC) and also Age UK and the European body representing pensioners AGE Platform EU and its UK counterpart.

More recently the CSPA has teamed up with National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) and the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners (NFOP) which represents pensioners in Royal Mail, the Post Office, British Telecomm and British Steel Pension Schemes (to mention just a few of the Occupational Pension schemes affiliated to the NFOP), to set up a campaigning umbrella organisation called Later Life Ambitions (LLA). The three organisations have 250,000 pensioners in membership which represents a considerable block of interest when raising issues with Members of Parliament and the Government.

LLA has concentrated its efforts in pursuit of a limited range of key objectives which includes the following;

  • a basic state pension set above the official poverty level linked to a triple lock mechanism using the best increase in either inflation, earnings or an underpinning minimum of 2.5% and the transfer of all existing pensioners onto the new single tier state pension on a nil detriment basis
  • the establishment of a social care system supported on a cross-party basis paid for out of taxation and ring-fenced
  • closer working between health and social care services to relieve pressure on the NHS
  • adequate provision of housing suitable for older people
  • retention of Universal Pensioner Benefits including the winter fuel payment
  • introduction of a nationally administered travel pass which can be used on all forms of public transport throughout the UK mainland

The LLA campaign has also been raising issues of concern with the Government that may affect members arising from the impact of Brexit including those who live in other EU member states.

Calling on Napo members to get involved

The campaigning activities being coordinated via the LLA at a national level also needs to be progressed at a local level which why CSPA’s local Groups which operate throughout England and Wales will play a very important part. There will be little impact from calls for change at a national level unless there is also evidence of pressure for such initiatives be progressed with constituency MPs, Local Authorities and other bodies that influence policies affecting the lives of older people. This is why CSPA not only needs members but also volunteers to get involved in progressing these policies to ensure that there is the necessary pressure available when calls are made to the Government to change policy stances.

The CSPA is not just about campaigning however. Like Napo the Alliance has a considerable of range of membership services and benefits  available ranging from free initial legal advice, cashback discounts available for a good number of popular supermarkets and high street retailers through to a highly competitive annual group travel insurance scheme that discounts pre-existing health conditions, provided you are fit to travel and not suffering from a terminal illness then a standard annual premium applies without any supplements or additions. In 2017 the Napo AGM carried a resolution calling for the formal affiliation of Napo to the CSPA to assist in addressing the issue of discrimination against older people, and joining the CSPA is one means of enabling that goal to be progressed.

CSPA membership costs for just £24.00 per annum for a single member or £33.60 if you wish to apply for joint membership with your spouse or partner. A membership application form enabling payment via annual direct debit can be downloaded from the CSPA website referred to below.

Should you be interested in joining the CSPA or wish to find out more about the Alliance’s campaigning activities or membership services and benefits then please contact:

General Secretary, Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance, CSPA Head Office, Floor 8, Grosvenor House, 125 High Street, CROYDON, CR0 9XP

Tel: 020 8688 8418 Email: enquiries@cspa.co.uk  Website: www.cspa.co.uk

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