This should please many of those who see elected members as surplus to requirements and wish to consign them to local government history as a failed experiment in democracy.
Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
19 December, 2012 | By Dan Drillsma-Milgrom
Councillors are to be barred from being members of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), local government minister Brandon Lewis has announced.
In a written ministerial statement made on Wednesday morning, Mr Lewis said that councillors would not be able to join the scheme after April 2014 and that councillors who are already members would not be able to accrue any further benefits after that date.
Mr Lewis said the government “did not believe that taxpayer-funded pensions are justified”.
“Councillors are volunteers undertaking public service; they are not and should 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.”
However, the statement revealed that elected mayors would not be barred from LGPS membership in recognition of the “greater expectation than an elected mayor is a full-time position”. The government will consult on allowing elected mayors to remain in the scheme “as a voluntary option (but not as an expectation)”.
The salaries of Police and Crime Commissioners, the Mayor of London and London Assembly Members will also remain pensionable.
Mr Lewis admitted that his department did not hold records on councillors’ participation in the scheme. However, he said that “initial rough estimates suggest that this could save £7m a year in taxpayers’ money”. He said there was “absolutely no case” for increasing councillor allowances to compensate for the move.
Councillors have been able to join the LGPS since 2003. The Councillors’ Commission report found that by 2004, 912 councillors had joined the scheme. However, research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance found that number had grown to 3,527 in 2007-08 and 4,548 by 2010-11.
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READERS’ COMMENTS (1)
Roger | 19-Dec-2012 12:55 pm
Another good example of different politicians in the same government department looking in completely different directions on an issue. One the one hand we have this statement, that members are volunteers and not to be considered or encouraged to be full time ’employees’ of the council. Then you have Eric Pickles telling elected members that they can fill the gap and replace officers culled under hiis ‘modest’ local government funding cuts. Do these people actually talk to each other?
If these sort of petty almost spiteful statements don’t deter the younger members of our communities from becoming councillors in the future, then I’m sure DCLG have more up their sleeves to do the job!
So… you think councillor LGPS membership actually makes sense? To make it possible in the first place, a scheme-within-a-scheme had to be devised – pension benefits are worked out differently given the main LGPS works with whole-time equivalent salaries, which obviously don’t exist for councillors. Similarly, the contribution rate for councillors (a flat 6%) is different to the contribution rate for employees in the main scheme (which again depends on the person’s whole-time equivalent salary).
No, the pension scheme change is just a symptom of the nonsense being spoken by government on what the elected member role in local government is. This minister states clearly his belief that we are amateurs in a professional world and should be treated as such.
Meanwhile we have a completely different message from Eric Pickles, the blustering, posturing wind bag, who is supposedly the local government minister. He takes every opportunity to tell elected members that they have a duty to offer the taxpayer better value for their council tax bill, by taking on the roles of directors and senior managers culled to cope with the funding cuts he has imposed.
This elevation to unpaid, untrained and ill prepared professional officer status in their council might well appeal to the egos of some elected members, but it is no more than a dangerous confidence trick. How long before we see the first exposé of council incompetence and wasted millions, all stemming from the failings of a now totally inadequate management team, peppered with dabbling and over confident amateurs, otherwise known as elected members?
As well as ruining this country’s economy, the last Labour government damaged local government by introducing the cabinet system. They also encouraged the setting up of numerous partnerships with external organisations, which effectively meant councils could no longer penalise the poor performance of a particular provider or contractor, because they were now your partners and we’re ‘all in it together’. It’s time to go back to basics and reintroduce the committee system to local government and put the elected member back in the box marked, ‘civic minded willing volunteer – open only when a change is being considered’.
Well, I was purely commenting on the technicalities of what it means for a councillor to be ‘in’ the LGPS – it’s basically a completely separate scheme tagged onto the LGPS proper. The idea of abolishing councillor ‘LGPS’ membership is one of the things I agree with while finding the abolition’s stated rationales somewhat dubious, be they from the minister concerned or (in particular) the self-styled ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ – from the latter’s rhetoric, you’d never realise the LGPS has a sizeable and growing non-public sector involvement, is the biggest pension scheme in the country with investments to match, etc.
That said, while I agree with much of what you say, on the contractors thing, well… when outsourcing really got going under the previous goverment, there was the issue of local government officers with little/no experience of tendering out major services having rings round them by far more savvy contractors. In a way, it was only natural for central government to step in and try to manage things more from the centre… which then leads to the same old ‘favourites’ getting picked anyway since smaller rivals have neither the experience nor (in particular) resources to comply with the ever-expanding list of procurement rules.
Sorry if I appeared to go off on one, but there is a bigger issue involved here than merely dealing with the mechanics of the system. If it were only a case of dealing with a cumbersome process, that caused an excessive administrative burden, then there would not of been the need to denigrate the role of elected members in this way.
On your specific point, can it really be so difficult for the bean counters to run a spreadsheet containing the required calculations? I would suggest not, given that so much of local government finance is so convoluted and tortuous anyway. This ministerial statement is nothing to do with the administrative burden and all about putting local government in its place.
A more legitimate criticism would be the extra financial burden it places on the council tax and therefore local taxpayers. Even then, if there is this continued push to steer elected members into becoming more involved in the day to day running of their councils, then the issue of salaries and therefore pensions will inevitably arise again. Regrettably, the day of the professional elected member can’t be too far away.