OAPs march to highlight needs

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Pensioners marched through Blackpool led by a jazz band as the annual three-day Pensioners Parliament opened in the town.

Around 1,000 delegates are due to attend the three-day conference in the Winter Gardens where better pensions, protecting the future of the NHS, and free bus travel are on the agenda.

Pensioners Parliament march in  Blackpool.

Pensioners Parliament march in Blackpool.

On the first day yesterday, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) unveiled its manifesto ahead of the next General Election.

Key issues include raising the basic state pension for all above the poverty level of £175 a week, maintaining universal pensioner benefits including bus travel and the winter fuel allowance, and introducing a Dignity Code to improve the quality of care for older people in hospital, care homes or their own home.

People travelled from as far afield as Dundee, Hull and Southampton to attend.

Tony Rock, from the Manchester TUC Pensioners Association, said: “The bus passes are a big issue. At one time you could go on the trams for free in Blackpool but that has stopped.

“We are worried that if this government gets in again, they will stop all free transport for older people.

“We are also worried about losing the heating allowance and the NHS being run down and moving towards greater privatisation.”

Pat Turner, of the South East Region Retired Members association for local government union Unison, said: “I have attended the Parliament for many years and it is very important at the moment to get the message across to the Government.

“I don’t think they understand the needs of pensioners. We have to keep fighting to get pensions right.”

NPC general secretary Dot Gibson added: “It will be important that we send a clear message to all the political parties this week.

“We have campaigned over many years to secure benefits such as the free bus pass, and we will not give them away lightly.”