Ministers pre-empt Brexit by changing disabled drivers blue badges putting holidaymakers at risk of parking fines

Government jumps Brexit by removing EU symbols from blue badges.

As you can see from the picture above the Government has sneakily already decided that Britain has left the EU as far as 2.35 million disabled blue badge holders are concerned.

My new card for my wife issued this week has been stripped of its EU symbols even before we have left the EU. It appears to reassure people by using nine foreign languages to describe it as a disabled parking card.

But investigating the real position of disabled driving post a ” No Deal ” Brexit this is totally misleading and could easily end up with holiday makers being fined in some European countries for illegal parking.

At present as a member of the EU all UK blue badge holders can get concessionary parking in virtually all European countries. If they hire a car they can take the blue badge with them as it is not tied to a particular vehicle. And the Independent Living advice site thinks nothing has changed. It says:

“It is not likely that Brexit would lead to the UK changing the format of the Blue Badge, so there is no obvious reason why it would not continue to be recognised across Europe, in the same way as those issued in Switzerland and Norway. “

However a more detailed investigation on a disabled motorists site paints a different picture.

It shows that once Britain leaves with a No Deal using this card will vary from country to country. In Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Iceland, Norway,Austria, Poland,Luxembourg, Romania and Cyprus there will be no problem.

But in France, Croatia, Finland,Leichenstein and Latvia the card won’t be recognised because we are from a third country.

In Germany you will have to notify the local council or police and get a card to park as a disabled driver.

And it may not be recognised in Holland, Belgium or the Czech Republic because it does not have a disabled wheelchair sign on the card.

In Malta and Portugal you must apply in advance for a special card if you want to use it. At present as a member of the EU you have no problems and can use the Blue Badge Card.

In Italy you have to check with the local council – it will vary from city to city where you can use your card. At present you can use it everywhere. The same applies to Lithuania and Hungary.

In the UK it is being left to the local council’s discretion whether they want to recognise blue badges from other EU or European Economic Area countries.

So far as I can see the government does not seem to have thought about it at all – most advice dates from 2008 and 2013 on Whitehall websites.

On Byline Times: The reactionary world of Therese Coffey, the new £154,000 a year secretary of state for work and pensions

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Therese Coffey in relaxed mood: Pic Credit: Daily Mail reproduced on Twitter

Boris Johnson has appointed one of the most hard line and divisive women to replace Amber Rudd as secretary for state for work and pensions. The new secretary of state’s voting record reveals a tranche of reactionary views likely to be offensive to gays, women, pensioners and non smokers.   She would also like millions of Europeans who live in the UK to have no right to stay here.

 Cigar smoking Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk, Coastal, would like to lift the ban on smoking in public places, bring back limitless betting odds on addictive gambling machines and is an opponent of gay marriage. Her voting record is recorded on Theyworkforyou.com

The full story is on Byline Times here.

Revealed on Byline Times: How Brexit planning boosted tax credit fraud

Whitehall Brexit redeployment boosts tax credit fraud at revenue and Customs. Pic credit: gov.uk

The Revenue and Customs agency has sacrificed the monitoring of fraud and error in paying out £22.9 billion a year in tax credits to millions of people so it can meet deadlines for Brexit.

The switching of 270 civil servants to prepare for Brexit from checking error and fraud among people claiming tax credits has cost Revenue and Customs up to £1.46 billion in overpayments, the National Audit Office has revealed.

The losses are the highest since 2011 and has led to the NAO qualifying the accounts of Revenue and Customs as inaccurate for the 15th year running since former Labour chancellor Gordon Brown first introduced tax credits in 2003.

The losses come on top of figures from the Department for Work and Pensions which disclosed that in the last financial year benefit error and fraud is running at record levels. Altogether the level of known error and fraud in both departments has now been revealed to total a record £7.5 billion.

The full report is on Byline Times here.

Bonuses for Universal Credit bosses as record benefit errors and fraud revealed at the Department for Work and Pensions

The annual report that reveals the damning failures of the ministry to keep a grip on benefit and error fraud and the high pay and pensions of the people running the Universal Credit programme

Benefit error and fraud has reached record levels at the Department for Work and Pensions and it is going to get worse, according to its own figures released in its annual report for the last financial year.

 For the 30th year running the National Audit Office has qualified the ministry’s £86.6 billion benefit accounts because it considers them to be inaccurate

The most damning section of the report is on Universal Credit – whose current and previous directors – have just received bonus payments up to £15,000 each for their work.

The full story is on byline here.

Byline Times Exclusive: Chris ” Failing Grayling ” The misery man who cost taxpayers £3.5 billion

Chris Grayling: The Lord Voldemort of the Cabinet

For those who are not yet following me on Byline there is now a two part investigation by me into the cost – both financial and personally damaging – to British taxpayers of cabinet minister Chris Grayling. His nine years in office – from Employment Minister to Lord Chancellor and now Transport secretary – have brought misery to millions of people whether they are rail commuters, prisoners, victims of criminal attacks or faced discrimination at work. Some people have even had to plead guilty to criminal offences they did not commit to save money. Others have become victimised twice because of the debacle of his probation privatisation programme.You read the two part series in byline here and here.

Date set for Judicial Review of state pensions for 50s born women

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Michael Mansfield QC will taking the case of the injustice to 3.8 million 50s born women to judicial review on May 24 and 25.

UPDATE: Since this blog was written the dates for the hearing were changed to June 5 and June 6.

The historic hearing into whether 3.9 million 50s born women have been cheated out of their state pension by the government has been set by the High Court for May 24.

The date is later than expected because the Department for Work and Pensions expected to win the hearing for permission to bring the review on November 30 brought by BackTo60 campaigning group and thought they would stop the process in its tracks.

Now the Department has been allowed more time to prepare its case as all of its initial arguments to stop the review were thrown out by the judge.

The Hon Ms Justice Lang – who is also known as Dame Beverley Ann Macnaughton Lang – ruled in favour of all the issues raised by barristers Catherine Rayner and Michael Mansfield on behalf of the women.

This means the government will have to answer whether the decision to raise the state pension age from 60 to 65 and then 66 amounted to age and equality discrimination. The key point is that the judge decided that although the legislation dated back to 1995 the present effects of the change is causing hardship to a specific group of women who were not able to fully contribute to the national insurance fund.

The original hearing also led the government to admit that further changes introduced by the coalition government in 2011 had been part of an austerity programme and reveal that the private pensions industry is also against the women winning their case as it could have a knock on effect on private occupational pensions that are tied to the state pension age.

The issue of maladministration will not be the main feature of the case as this is being dealt with by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Cases of discrimination and resulting hardship can still be brought by MPs to the Ombudsman. And recently Ben Lake, the Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion filed a case on behalf of a constituent.

Joanne Welch, spokeswoman, said

” BackTo60 .com had a resounding victory on 30th November 2018 and our amazing World Class Legal Team pressed home our advantage for a 2-Day Substantive Hearing.
“The substantial significance of our argument has been recognised by the authorities and the case has been elevated to a higher level for determination – this has necessarily involved an alteration of  hearing dates.
” There will now be a much more thorough and robust review as the case will take on an historic perspective and achieve national significance:  it will be heard, May 2019, at the Divisional Court.
Our collective impetus is working so well, thanks to each one of you.  Long may it be so.”

Permission granted: 50s Women win historic case to judicial review on pension rights

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50s women dancing in front of the Royal Court of Justice after the judge granted their request for a judicial review

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A High Court judge  yesterday gave the Back To 60 campaign permission to bring a judicial review against the Department for Work and Pensions over the raising of the pension age  for 3.8 million women born in the 1950s.

The Hon Ms Justice Lang – who is also known as Dame Beverley Ann Macnaughton Lang – ruled in favour of all the issues raised by barristers Catherine Rayner and Michael Mansfield on behalf of the women.

The ruling by the 63 year old judge obviously stunned the Department of Work and Pensions whose barrister, Julian Milford, asked for  66 days ( instead of the normal 14 days)  to prepare a fresh case against Back To 60. They were granted 42 days.

The  ruling means that a future  hearing BackTo60 have the right to argue their case that the government’s decision which affected the 3.8 million  women was both  a matter of  gender and age discrimination. In addition they can argue that the total failure of successive governments to review the arrangements to look at the hardship faced by many of the people made  matters worse.

As is stated on the lawyer chambers site:

” the taper mechanism used to raise the date on which women receive state pension, in combination with a failure to properly inform women of the changes was unlawful because it discriminates on grounds of sex, age and sex combined and age.”

Catherine Rayner told the judge that there had been no fewer than 60 changes to the date  when a 50s woman could get a pension  and that the main driving force for the government was to save money. She said the equivalent of £5.3billion had been taken from this group of women. She described it as an ” historic inequality ” which was made worse by the lack of knowledge among the women themselves  because the government never informed them directly about the changes.

Julian Milford for the DWP, admitted that this was part of a cost saving for the government but also said it was about equalising the pension age between men and women.

He argued that there should be no judicial review of this because it was about primary legislation which had been widely debated in Parliament in 1995 and it was far too late to call it into question.

He also argued that a ruling by the European Court  of Human Rights which meant that pensioners who had retired to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were not entitled to uprated pensions meant that the women had no case to ask for a judicial review about changing their pensions.

Both these points were rejected by the judge who said that even though the act was passed 23 years ago the fact that its impact was causing problems for the women now meant  the review could go ahead.

The government also revealed that the private pensions industry is  uneasy about the women winning their case because it could force them to pay out occupational pensions five years earlier to some women – if their contract with companies meant it was payable on the day they could collect their state pension.

As the 7BR website says:

“The hearing will allow a detailed examination of complaints made by made by women born in the 1950s, and championed by groups such as #backto60 and WASPIE, as well as their political representatives. The case raises legal questions about sex and age discrimination in the mechanisms chosen by government to implement a policy; the responsibility of Government to inform people of significant changes to State Pension entitlement and of the applicability of the EU directive on Equal Treatment in Social Security provision.”

My view is that it has significant implications for Westminster and Whitehall.

It means that a judge has quashed the views expressed by financial commentators  like  Frances Coppola and other people connected to the private pensions  and banking industry that there was no chance of a judicial review. It has also called into question the arguments they used over primary legislation and the  ECHR court ruling.

It will add to pressure on the Labour Party leadership to promise to do something for these women whose cause is championed  by Laura Alvarez, the partner of Jeremy Corbyn, and whose shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is well aware of the issue, and predicted the women would win a review.

It will put enormous pressure on Amber Rudd, the new works and pensions secretary, who is already having to cope with the backlash over the mess caused by universal credit and will now have to seriously address the plight of the 50s women. It is also a  blow to the reputation of Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, who all but nearly misled Parliament by telling them that the judicial review had already been rejected.

And I am afraid the All Party Group on State Pension Inequality for Women in Westminster will have to buck their ideas up and come behind this review rather than seeking small sums of compensation for the affected women.  By taking this radical stand  and going for the jugular BackTo60 have shown the way. They have not won yet but they have got much farther than anybody thought.