MINERS’ pensions will rise by about 11 per cent in the autumn following a ‘landmark’ achievement for campaigners who have battled for a better deal having been backed by a Barnsley MP.
Stephanie Peacock, who represents Barnsley East, welcomed news that the bonus protection for the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) will be brought forward from 2024 to this year.
It will ensure that pensions will increase by an estimated 11 per cent - rather than 4 per cent - this autumn.
Ms Peacock has been urging the government to make this change sooner rather than later - in light of rising inflation rates and the cost-of-living crisis - after it was revealed some miners are paid as little as £18 a week.
“The last decade has seen coalfield communities fall victim to some of the worst cuts in the country,” she told the Chronicle.
“Now, as the cost-of-living rises, ex-miners are being placed in an even more difficult financial situation.
“So, it is excellent news that the increase to miners’ pensions has been brought forward.
“I am proud that our campaign has led the government to make this essential change.
“Thank you to the MPS trustees who have been instrumental in this effort - this will make a real difference to many former miners and their families.”
Having brought up the matter in Parliament last week, Simon Clarke - chief secretary to the Treasury - added: “HM Treasury recognises the importance of the issue and has approved the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme trustees’ request to bring forward the ‘bonus protection’ arrangements.”
The 70-year-old MPS is valued by a government actuary every three years, with the most recent of these valuations two years ago.
In 1994, upon the privatisation of British Coal’s operations, contributions were closed and the government stepped in as guarantor - in return getting 50 per cent of surpluses, used to improve members’ benefits or offer contribution holidays to employers.
Since then, the scheme’s strong performance has seen the government pocket £4.4bn - double its initial projections - despite not contributing financially.
“Governments should not be in the business of profiting from miners’ pensions,” Stephanie added.
“I will continue to campaign for a fairer arrangement for all those who worked day and night to keep our lights on.”
NUM general secretary Chris Kitchen labelled the increase as a ‘step in the right direction’ - but condemned the government’s stance on the MPS.
“We are cynical as we have been victimised most of our working lives and although it’s welcome as it is a step in the right direction, the reality is that the extra money from this will simply go towards rising bills.
“We’re in the midst of an energy cost crisis - the irony is that if the government had not killed the coal industry, we would not be in this position now.
“We want the government to accept they should stop making profit from a scheme they’ve put nothing into, connected to an industry they’ve destroyed.
“For the sake of our members and their families, we will continue to fight for a fair deal as it is only right.
“The NUM was not involved in establishing the terms of the original agreement and has argued consistently for changes that would achieve a fairer outcome for retired mineworkers and their families.
‘We will continue to lobby the government and campaign for a more balanced approach to the distribution of surplus funds.”