Pensioners in rallying cry

PENSIONERS from all over East Anglia are to meet in north Suffolk next month in a bid to inform political leaders of their plight.The assembly is being organised by Suffolk Pensioners' Association and is taking place at the Waveney Sports Centre, Water Lane, Lowestoft, from 10am to 4pm on Thursday, May 8.

PENSIONERS from all over East Anglia are to meet in north Suffolk next month in a bid to inform political leaders of their plight.

The assembly is being organised by Suffolk Pensioners' Association and is taking place at the Waveney Sports Centre, Water Lane, Lowestoft, from 10am to 4pm on Thursday, May 8.

Jack Thain, a pensioner who lives in north Suffolk and is chairman of the eastern region of the National Pensioners' Convention, will act as assembly chairman during the morning session.

Speakers include Rodney Bickerstaffe, president of the National Pensioners' Convention, Julian Brazer, Conservative front bench spokesman on pensions, and Bob Blizzard Labour MP for Waveney.

They will be joined by Kathy Pollard, the Liberal Democrat leader on Suffolk County Council, and senior representatives of Help The Aged.

"It is important that the plight of pensioners is understood by political leaders of all parties.

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"I hope that those politicians present will learn how serious the present situation is," said Mr Thain.

He said that older people have been hit with huge rises in council tax payments that have far outstripped any rise in pension payments.

"The assembly is not just for people living in Lowestoft because we are welcoming everybody.

"I know of pensioners coming from all over Suffolk as well as from Colchester, Peterborough, Norwich and King's Lynn," he said.

Mr Thain has been one of the fiercest critics of the large rises in council tax because of the impact it has had on many pensioners.

"A lot of pensioners live in the same homes where they raised their families and if these are in a high grade band for council tax they have been hit with rises far in excess of inflation," said Mr Thain.

He also criticised the Government for the level of red tape associated with payments to pensioners.

"The forms that are sent out to pensioners are really complicated and this puts off a lot of people who should be receiving extra benefit.

"It is this type of understanding that has to be got across to politicians and the assembly will be making this point," said Mr Thain.

During the afternoon Mr Thain will "demote" himself as assembly chairman so that he can take part in a question and answer session with the other speakers.

The morning speakers will also be joined by Jeremy Pembroke, Conservative leader on Suffolk County Council, for the afternoon session.

Jim Hodges, spokesman for Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said: "In view of the strong feelings of pensioners about the low levels of pensions in the UK and the huge increases in council taxes it should be a lively assembly."

Several stalls will also be manned during the assembly including those from Age Concern, Suffolk Constabulary, Inland Revenue, Department of Work and Pensions and business sponsors of the assembly.

The eastern region of the National Pensioners' Convention will also be holding a stall to raise funds during the assembly. More than 250 pensioners are expected to attend the event.

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