Consultation on taxpayer-funded pensions for councillors

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched a consultation into councillor access to the local government pension scheme.

I’ve ‘googled’ pensions for councillors and found

In Surrey Heath, to my knowledge, no councillors are members of the LGPS. Staff of Surrey Heath Borough Council are members of the Surrey County Council Pension Fund, councillors are not members of this scheme. Surrey Heath councillors do not receive a council pension, which is an excellent state of affairs.

I don’t agree with councillors being members of any council pension scheme. Councillors are not full-time politicians or salaried town hall staff. Councillors volunteer to serve their communities, for which they get an allowance. It is not a salary. As it says in the Background section of the consultation document, “The public seem generally surprised that councillors are receiving taxpayer-funded pensions at all”. I think that’s true.

If councillors want to build a pension from the money they get in allowances, then that’s their choice. I believe that if a councillor, or any locally elected official, when removed from office in an election, the public should understand that their taxes no longer support them. The government are looking to limit access by elected individuals to the LGPS from April 2014.

The consultation offers a number of options. To make your views known email them to CouncillorPensions@communities.gsi.gov.uk

7 thoughts on “Consultation on taxpayer-funded pensions for councillors

  1. Tim, First of all I declare that Surrey County Councillors can join the scheme and that I’m one who has joined the scheme. Secondly, in order to be able to fulfill my busy role as a County Councillor I’ve virtually given up any accountancy or consultancy work,In fact I’m in the process of winding up my Company as the income I’ve earned since being a CC does not warrant the cost of running as a Limited Company. Thirdly, for many County Councilors their role is in fact their job. The SCC cabinet members could hardly fulfill their roles if they were in other pensionable employment. Fourth: we are taxed under PAYE.. To all intents & purposes we are treated as employees -why should we not be entitled to join the pension scheme? Fifth: we Surrey CCs voted to freeze our allowance four years ago -so in real terms our allowance is substantially less than was the case four years ago.In conclusion: to my experience over the last four years Surrey has been fortunate to to have been able to attract a team of talented & experienced CCs, willing to spend a substantial amount of time in performing their role. When a person considers standing as a CC there is a liklihood that money will be a factor. There are only a limited number of people who have the time & financial resources available to enable them to become a County Councillor -thus if anything we should do our best to remove any discouragement to people thinking of standing, rather than put more barriers in the way. Whilst I was President of Surrey Heath Chamber of Commerce I sat on the SHBC Remuneration Committee and was party of the group that listened to appeals from your Parish Councillors who, at the time, were not remunerated. My view at the time was that anybody who wished to become a Parish Councillor should not be totally out of pocket. There were experienced & talented many ‘mums’ at home looking after their families who would, and now do make excellent Parish Councillors. I voted for SHBC Parish Councillors to receive an allowance, if only to defray the cost of an occasional babysitter. Tim -I think your remarks were sincere and well intentioned -but they reflect your personal circumstances. Please respect the circumstances of other current and potential councillors.

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  2. There are in fact at least 2 cllrs who are members of the LGPS (I am one of them) although this is because we are local authority employees for other councils. There is no entitlement at Surrey Heath for cllrs to join the pension scheme.

    Personally, if cllrs have an allowance then I can’t see why they should not be eligible to join the pension scheme? The LGPS is a contributory pension so it seems bizarre that people receive an income from a local government authority but cannot pay into the pension for it.

    Allowing cllrs to join the LGPS would make it more attractive for working people and those on lower incomes to become cllrs. I do take the point about taxpayers and that politicians leave but so do other public officials including those in the LGPS.

    The issue about whether it is an “allowance” or a “salary” seems a false distinction in my mind – at the end of the day, people receive a certain amount of money to do the role as cllr and extra money for responsibilities. Quite rightly, these are not generous but do ensure that being a cllr is not confined just to the retired and the rich.

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  3. I do agree with you Rodney. Councilors are ‘Office Holders’ -not ’employees but required by statute to be taxed under the PAYE rules. There is no question of taxpayers continuing to support a councillor after he or she retires or is deselected. During the term that a councillor is in office he or she pays a pension contribution and so does the Council. at the end of the period of service the Pension Fund, not the Council, pays the pension with reference only to the amounts previously contributed. No person should be discouraged from standing for election as a councillor for financial reasons, provided they realise that the financial ‘rewards’ are likely to fall far short of what that person may earn elsewhere.

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  4. Rodney, I’ve no criticism of any Councillor being a member of a local govt pension scheme where they are employed by a local council. In fact, in general we should promote membership of pension schemes.

    Local government pension schemes are ultimately backed by government, and when such schemes are underfunded then it’s taxpayers, just like the banks, who provide the funds.

    To answer Denis’s points, councillors are not employees. They receive allowances according to the amount of responsibility they assume, including the ability to recover expenses in pursuance of their role. This is as it should be.

    In a representative democracy, there’s the expectation that they are responsible to the electors, and not seen as equivalent to employees of the council. Sharing the same pension scheme as council employees brings into question that separation. I’m not sure whether its the case in Surrey that Councils add an employer contribution to a councillor pension contribution, as the consultation paper suggests. That seems to me to be wrong, again blurring the distinction between elected an representative and a council employee.

    I think that when a councillor no longer holds office, then it should be the case that they revert to that of being an ordinary citizen, and have no financial connection with the council from their time in office.

    To my mind the two key reasons we don’t have younger, or a wider variety of councillors, is the perception of the amount of time required and simple interest in local politics, rather than the size of the councillor allowances.

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  5. O K Tim -before you write -get your facts right. People read your stuff and they trust you.
    1 – ‘taxpayers’ -be they council tax payers or any sort of tax payers – pay the Council Contribution of the councillors pension scheme.
    2 -Surrey County Council add a contribution to the councillors pension
    3 -When a councillor leaves office he or she has no ‘financial connections’with the council. They have a ‘financial connection’ with a pension scheme which is managed by Independent Trustees.

    The rest of your comments are what you personally believe, based to an extent on conjecture.You are entitled to your views so long as they are based on facts.

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  6. I still think the argument about cllrs not being entitled to pensions falls down when you have people whose main or only source of income or employment is that of being a cllr.

    Ultimately you can be a cllr and also work (although it is very difficult for many) but being a leader or certain other roles is a full-time job. It may not be for Surrey Heath cllrs as we are a small district but it certainly is for colleagues across the country covering much larger areas or Councils. There are also many dual-hatted cllrs who cover more than one.

    There are a variety of reasons why younger people are less likely to be involved but it would be naive and wrong to suggest that money plays no part.

    If MPs are entitled to a (generous) pension, I fail to see why cllrs should be excluded en-masse.

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