Councillors: Pensions

Department for Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 15th January 2015.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, if he will place in the Library correspondence he has received from Essex County Council and Brentwood Council on changes to councillors' eligibility for the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Brentwood Borough Council did not send in a response to the consultation on “Taxpayer-funded pensions for councillors and other elected local office holders”. A copy of Essex County Council’s response is attached.

This differential interest no doubt reflects the fact that Brentwood Borough Council did not have any councillors in the Local Government Pension Scheme (a consequence of the decision of my hon. Friend, the Member for Great Yarmouth, when he was leader of the Council not to join the scheme), whereas Essex did. Non-participating councils tended not to respond to the consultation.

Prior to the consultation, only 16 per cent of councillors were actually members of the scheme and only 55 councils actually responded. The majority of Councils and Councillors submitted no objection to the Government’s proposal to end Councillor’s access to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Such taxpayer-funded local government pensions have now been abolished, subject to practical transition measures introduced as a result of the consultation. These reforms will save taxpayers’ money, strengthen the independence of councillors, and reflects that the fact that councillors are not salaried employees of the council. Nothing prevents councillors from contributing to their own private personal pension, receiving tax relief like any other member of the public.

The suggestion by some that these changes would discourage people from running for election has not been borne out. In this year’s London borough elections, all candidates nominated in the knowledge that there would be no taxpayer-funded pensions if they were elected; yet more candidates ran for election in London in 2014 than in 2010 (source: London datastore).

I suspect that the council tax-paying public would be less than impressed at the Labour Party’s calls to reintroduce such taxpayer-funded pensions.

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