Councillors’ pensions - ‘highly immoral’

PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 June 2011

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ELEVEN councillors on North Somerset Council will receive nearly £30,000 of taxpayers’ money towards their pension schemes following a decision to raise contributions this year.

The elected community leaders are to benefit from a 1.1 per cent boost in contributions from the unitary authority towards their Local Government Pension Scheme.

It will mean that the council will give 19.1 per cent of the salary of each councillor signed up, while the councillor will put in six per cent.

Based on current executive roles and special responsibilities, the council will pay out £27,213 to their members’ retirement pots.

The scheme, introduced for councillors in 2008, means the highest earner, deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees, will receive £4,986 in the 2010/11 financial year.

The rise in contributions was decided by an actuary appointed by the Avon Pensions Fund and comes at a time the council is making mass cutbacks toward a bid to make savings of £47.3million by 2015.

At the first meeting of the newly elected council, councillors defended their pension scheme and defeated a motion to do away with the scheme.

The council’s LibDem leader Mike Bell called for an independent panel to review the system because ‘it was costing the council too much money’.

Councillor John Crockford-Hawley, also a LibDem, said: “We are here for the public good and what allowances we get should be pocket money toward supporting our roles – but this is not an occupation.

“I think it is highly immoral that some of the public purse is used to pay for some of our councillors’ pensions.

“There are some people on this council who are very wealthy and they will take this money from the council until they die.”

But the motion was defeated at a vote by councillors.

Executive member for children and young people’s services, Jeremy Blatchford, said the councillors’ roles could be interpreted as occupations.

A North Somerset Council spokesman said: “Every three years the pension fund is subject to an evaluation.

“Any deficit has to be accounted for so the future pension contributions are calculated and that is why the employer’s contribution has risen.”

This week, campaign group TaxPayers’ Alliance called the councillors’ decision to drop the motion ‘shameful’.

Campaign manager Charlotte Linacre said: “Councillors used to represent residents as part of their civic duty without hoping for financial gain, it is thoroughly disappointing that they have put their own needs before those of taxpayers.”

The councillors who hold membership in the Local Government Pension Scheme are Elfan Ap Rees, Peter Bryant, Andy Cole, Bob Cook, Colin Hall, David Jolley, Tim Marter, John Norton-Sealey, Marcia Pepperall, Terry Porter and Clive Webb.

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