Tuesday, 19 January 2010

UNISON leaders speak up on the Local Government Pension Scheme

Readers of this blog may have spotted this story on the BBC website that says that pension funds improved sharply in December.

The story followed the attack on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) by the Liberal Democrats attacking our pension scheme in the run up to the election. The press release from the Department of Communities and Local Government CLG about that attack said this:

" This story does not stand up to scrutiny. Claims about the size of a deficit for the local government pension scheme are pure speculation. This year's valuation of the fund has not been carried out yet and is legally required to be based on market levels at the end of March - no one has any accurate way of knowing what that will be. There are regulations in place to ensure the scheme remains fair, solvent, protected against risk, and affordable to the taxpayer - these rules also ensure that any deficits identified in the valuation cannot be passed on directly to council tax payers”

It’s becoming clear that we public sector workers face a real threat to our pension schemes if the Tories get elected at the general election or if they form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Both these parties have called for cuts to our pensions and some have called for the schemes to be closed to new entrants and for final salary schemes to be replaced with defined contribution schemes. So far Labour have resisted any such attacks. Minister John Healey said in May 2009 that a defined contribution scheme would result in the average pension for a local Government worker reducing from it’s current £4,000 to about £1,000.

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said:

“There is a lot of rubbish spoken about public sector pensions and the Liberal Democrats are recycling some of that in an attempt to scaremonger. It is wrong to say that all councils have mismanaged their pension funds. Only a few years years ago, the local government pension scheme was reviewed and UNISON and the local government employers agreed a scheme that is fair, affordable and sustainable.

Local government workers pay more than 6 per cent of their wages into their pension scheme, to save for their retirement. The majority of scheme members are low paid women workers, and the average pension for them is under £40 a week – hardly a gold-plated pension. If these workers didn’t save for their pensions, they’d be forced on to means tested state benefits.

The real pensions scandal in this country is that the boardroom fat cats vote each other ludicrously generous retirement packages, while plotting to cut the pensions of their workforce.”

Chris Tansley
Chair UNISON Local Government Service Group Executive

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