Councillors barred from pension scheme

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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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!

The death of local government?

Localism, community right to challenge, independent schools, neighbourhood planning, community panels and of course, directly elected mayors. A common thread here, or to use the current jargon, the golden thread, is community. You could actually translates the term community into, ‘non-local government’. I say local government, because central government has made sure that none of the plans put forward for the reform of public services, have threatened their continued existence.

There’s been a concerted effort by the likes of Eric Pickles and George Osbourne, to make local government the villains of the piece, in taxpayers’ eyes, when it comes to the cost of providing public services. This ‘official’ campaign is under-pinned by the long held and media fuelled public perception of local government – It’s full of pen pushing bureaucrats; they all have a job for life so do as little as possible; what they do do, is always done at half speed; there’s too many managers, getting inflated levels of pay; when they retire, it’s too early and they all get a gold-plated pension. Oh! and while we’re at, those bloody councillors are a waste of space and get too much in expenses! They actually mean allowances, as expense are simply the refunding of what’s been paid out for things such as travel, whereas allowances are what councillors receive for being councillors.

Given this unremitting assault on local government from all sides, one has to wonder how long it will be before local government becomes pretty much extinct, which it’s difficult not to see as the ultimate ambition for Whitehall – why? Think about it – a large amount of tax revenue is currently diverted to local government through the grant process. Leaving most local services to be provided and therefore funded by the communities that use them, would give government a very large pot of money that wasn’t available before. Those services that are left for local government to provide, such as emptying the bins, will be funded from the perpetually frozen council tax, the partial retention of the business rates and possibly CIL. There will of course be a few other roles for local government to fulfil, because the government either can’t be bothered with it, or need to deflect blame away from themselves by putting somebody else in the firing line. Public health and the universal credit being the current ones.

Adult social care and the growing concerns surrounding the cost of provision suggests that this could still be the elephant in the room. However, given how duplicitous central government has been towards local government to date, I suspect they already have a plan that will leave local government further sidelined and weakened, whilst also being blamed for its failings.