State Pension  

Waspi infighting damages DWP legal battle

Waspi infighting damages DWP legal battle

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) movement has lost the legal support of law firm Bindmans, due to an internal dispute.

Bindmans was working with Waspi in a legal campaign against the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) regarding what they call inadequate communication of changes to the state pension age which affects some women born in the 1950s.

The Waspi movement claims that while the 1995 Conservative government's Pensions Act included plans to increase the women's state pension age to 65 – the same age as men's – the changes were implemented unfairly, with little or no personal notice.

The group also said changes were implemented faster than promised with the 2011 Pension Act and left women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences.

In November, Bindmans achieved a breakthrough in this case, as the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman agreed to intervene to speed up responses to complaints.

Thousands of women from across the country have submitted, and continue to submit, complaints against the DWP to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), but the progress on these has been slow.

The Ombudsman, contacted by Bindmans, stepped in and agreed with the ICE directly that it would streamline the process by analysing a representative sample of complaints and how any such maladministration should be addressed.

Now, due to internal disputes in the Waspi movement, Bindmans has dropped the group as a client and the progress of the case is in question.

According to Companies House, Jane Cowley, Angela Christina Madden, Susan Beevers, Carole Archibald and Jane Carolan resigned from Waspi’s board on 20 February, due to “irreconcilable differences”.

They were replaced on 21 February by Patricia Tarttelin, Cheryl Anne Sloan, Lila Bennett and Rosemary Dickson.

Waspi – which is registered as company for legal case purposes - is now in dispute after the former directors lodged a formal objection to the new leadership, which means that Bindmans had to down tools due to potential conflicts of interests.

When a company is formally in dispute, the law firm has no legal entity to work with.

None of the parties were allowed to talk to Bindmans about the dispute to guarantee that there were no conflicts of interest in the case. 

Ms Beevers, one of the former members of Waspi board, told FTAdviser: “We worked hard to try to keep Bindmans on board, and to try to agree a position where the two parties were able to settle the dispute or jointly instruct Bindmans.”

An agreement couldn’t be reached between both parties.

Jamie Potter, partner at Bindmans, declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Waspi said: “The Waspi board has appreciated the support that we have received from Bindmans in the past and understand why it has not been possible to continue our relationship during this time of change. We are seeking further legal opinion on this issue.”