For a long time the TPA has been concerned about the rise in the number of professional politicians in local government who seem more keen on clambering aboard the gravy train than doing their civic duty and what’s best for taxpayers.
A symbol of the rise of professional politicians has been the increasing number of councillors who sign themselves up to the very generous Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Well, today it was announced that taxpayers will be paying for councillors to join the LGPS no more as they are to be barred from being members of the scheme.
This announcement, on the day that Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, also announced the local government funding settlement for England, is a welcome one that reverses a decision to allow local politicians onto the LGPS made just over ten years ago.
In fact, those who introduced that change evidently felt uneasy about it, since it was announced on September 12th 2001 – the “good day to bury bad news”, as special adviser Jo Moore infamously wrote.
For several years now the TPA has been highlighting the growing number of councillors signing themselves up to the LGPS. We revealed in a paper in January that by 2010-11, over 4,500 councillors had joined the scheme.
Today’s announcement is therefore a victory for us, taxpayers and common sense.
Not that every local councillor is signed up to the LGPS: many local authorities did not allow it and often the best councillors I meet – the ones doing a good and earnest job of representing their residents and taxpayers – were totally opposed to the idea.
After all, councillors already get allowances and the idea that they should then take a pension as well goes against the grain for those who view being a councillor as a civic duty. It also didn’t send a signal that councillors were serious about tackling the huge deficits in the overly generous LGPS when they were merrily jumping on board the scheme.