The headline in the East Riding Mail this morning read: Staff Pension cutbacks ‘would save council £255,000 over five years’. It sounds good, but when you read the detail, you realise it’s still very much ‘business as usual’ at County Hall, in Beverley.
Many will remember Sue Lockwood, the former Corporate Resources Director of East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC). The TPA held two protests outside County Hall, protesting against a discretionary payment made to her pension fund of £364,205. She received this outrageous sum because she wanted to take early retirement. This was at a time when councillors were also saying the council could no longer afford to fund some community projects. Where charities lost out, senior council employees won.
ERYC is now proposing a change. As it stands, when employees wish to take early retirement their pensions can be enhanced by 5 years; as was the case with Ms Lockwood. Under new proposals, this enhancement will decrease to a maximum of 2 years, hence the headline in the East Riding Mail. By my calculations, instead of receiving £364K, Ms Lockwood would have received over £145K. Still a sizeable sum by anyone’s standards.
I made my views very clear in the press a couple of weeks ago. Council employees already receive generous, taxpayer funded pensions. If you work for 30 years, you should receive a pension based on 30 years service; not 35 or 32 years. This should be the message coming out of County Hall. Instead Cllr Cross, chairman of the review panel, said these proposals were fair to taxpayers and staff. No, Cllr Cross, they are generous to staff and unfair to taxpayers.
These proposals have yet to be discussed by the cabinet and full council. I will be writing to all cabinet members, and making the TPA’s case that council employees should not receive any enhancements in their pensions. If that doesn’t work, I can feel another protest coming on. Watch this space.