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Scrapping of publicly-funded councillor pensions ‘kick in the teeth’

Government proposals to stop councillors' accessing the Local Government Pension Scheme have been branded ‘perplexing’ and ‘wrong’ by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Communities minister Brandon Lewis yesterday revealed that regulations have been laid out to abolish taxpayer-funded pensions for new councillors in England and other elected office holders from 1 April 2014, and to terminate access for existing councillors at the end of their current term of office.

He originally laid out the plans in December 2012 saying: “We do not believe that taxpayer-funded pensions are justified. Councillors are volunteers undertaking public service; they are not and should not be employees of the council dependent on the municipal payroll. They are not professional, full-time politicians, nor should they be encouraged to become so.

“We do not believe that an occupational pension scheme intended for employees, and paid for by taxpayers, is an appropriate vehicle for councillors.”

Responding to the government proposals to limit councillors' access to pensions, Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the LGA, said the plans were a “kick in the teeth” for those who have dedicated their life to public service

“It is perplexing that ministers who have been busy adding to the workload of councillors by transferring functions from central to local government are now arguing that those same councillors – and the Mayor of London – should be classed as volunteers,” he said, adding that fair remuneration is important so that people from all walks of life can afford to stand for office.

“This is the wrong decision and will create a double standard where councillors in England will be denied a pension scheme which councillors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will still be a part of,” said Sir Merrick. “We will be urging government to listen to the feedback from its consultation and think again.”

However, Lewis said the reforms are necessary to deliver on the coalition government’s pledge to reform public sector pensions and provide a fair deal for public service workers and taxpayers.

“The reforms ensure that local government pensions are fair, affordable and sustainable in the long term, particularly in the light of changing demographics, and are justifiable to taxpayers who foot the bill for employer contributions,” he said.

In the DCLG announcement it was noted that the government has laid before Parliament the Local Government Pension Scheme (Transitional Provisions, Savings and Amendment) Regulations 2014 which will mean the transitional provision between the existing local government pension schemes, and the new scheme,will come into force on 1 April 2014.

“Together with the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 2013 introduced in September last year, the introduction of the regulations completes the regulatory framework for the new local government pension scheme. Implementing the new scheme a year ahead of the other major public service pension schemes represents a major achievement; we are very grateful to the LGA, the scheme’s shadow advisory board and other key interested parties for the help and co-operation they have given to ensure the successful implementation of the new scheme,” the statement added.

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