Leaders blast Lewis over councillor pensions

Pensions for elected members or not is not the issue here. The barefaced arrogance of this 5 year politician is. He has no qualification to be in his job, other than success at the ballot box, just like elected councillors. Yet he is telling those councillors, with exactly qualification as an MP, they have no right to

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online

7 January, 2013 | By Mark Smulian

Most council leaders have rejected government plans to ban councillors from joining the Local Government Pension Scheme, an exclusive LGC survey indicates.

More than half of 105 respondents said they disagreed with the proposal, our poll reveals. Local government minister Brandon Lewis suggested councillors should be stripped of the right to join the scheme in a consultation paper last month.

The idea has already met with strong opposition from prominent Conservative councillors. And LGC’s survey found that 53.3% of leaders thought councillors should remain eligible for scheme membership.

Respondents were particularly annoyed by Mr Lewis’ claim that while councillors should see themselves as volunteers rather than professional politicians, there was an expectation that being an elected mayor was a full-time job.

Almost 70% of leaders rejected this distinction while almost 60% disagreed that councillors were not full-time politicians.

Anyone who thought metropolitan leaders do “less work than – for example – the elected mayor of Doncaster must live on a differed planet to that inhabited by normal people,” one said. Another noted: “The position of mayor probably requires less work as the power of decision lies completely with one person.”

“Any leader worth their salt not only has to direct political direction but work very closely with group members at the same time.”

The most popular alternative to barring councillors but allowing elected mayors to remain scheme members was to ban both councillors and elected mayors from the LGPS, with 17.1% backing this approach. Meanwhile, 14.3% thought only leaders and cabinet members should remain eligible.

LGC’s survey also indicated anger towards Mr Lewis. One respondent, identifying themselves as a member of “one of the coalition parties”, accused Mr Lewis of “scandalous political opportunism on the part of the government, nasty, vindictive and anti-local government”.

Many respondents said their roles’ demands made it impossible to also take up pensionable employment.

“I was a project manager for an international credit card company and there is no way I could have continued in that role,” one said.

A metropolitan leader said anyone who considered the role as part-time was “detached from reality”. A unitary leader said they were “losing money through having to give up my regular job”.

Several also predicted that excluding councillors from the pension scheme would deter new candidates from coming forward.

Last week, Gary Porter, LGA Conservative group leader, told LGC he would ask Mr Lewis to row back on the proposal. “I’ve received a large amount of lobbying on this from Conservative councillors to resist the idea,” he added. “I expect to be putting it to Brandon and [communities minister] Eric [Pickles] that they shouldn’t make savings in this area.”

Councillors have been able to join the LGPS since 2003. According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance some 4,548 were members of it in 2010-11.

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