Who are councillors meant to represent: their residents in the Town Hall or the Town Hall to their residents?
Dec 2012 19

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.

Robert is Campaign Director, responsible for promoting the TPA's work in the media and offering day-to-day reaction to the latest news stories.

  • blarg1987

    Is this for councillers only or also executive members as I agree with part of what you are saying but also believe that some positions are full time roles which means they can only be left to those who are retired or those who are very wealthy.

  • CL

    Councillors shouldn’t be paid in the first place, let alone accrue a pension for their supposedly public spirited efforts.

  • Jeremy Poynton

    By the way – pale grey on white is REALLY hard for old eyes to read. Books are printed in black and white for a reason!

  • Alan Wheatley

    As I understand it, elected councillors are only entitled to expenses and allowances. They do not get paid, so they are not in receipt of pensionable earnings. So was this the then government rewriting the law to do a deal for specially favour citizens, or has the whole thing been illegal from the beginning?

    • Kobi

      Councillors allowances are taxed (or at least they used to be), so the allowances would be treated as being eligible for being pensionable earnings. Don’t agree that they should be members of the same scheme as their employees though.

  • Malcolm

    I never dreamed councillors would be entitled to a pension. It used to be a part time voluntary public service. Very good news that they are barred.

  • Hardeep_Singh

    Thank goodness , for once we giogive them a bad day. I am happy for once.

  • Mark Stringer

    I am greatly concerned about the 4.5 million members of the Local Government Pension Scheme. We simply cannot afford to maintain these final salary pensions any longer and yet the polical wing of the council; local government association (LGA) has struck a deal to move from 80ths/60ths to a 49ths scheme from April 2014.
    It is simply bonkers to expect council taxpayers to keep paying around 20% of their council tax and the taxpayer nationally to top-up the deficits whilst the majority of those same taxpayers, both local and national will retire in pension poverty!
    The real criminals in all of this are the high earners in councils whose grandiose titles have rocketed them from clerk status to manager, managing diredctor, deputy chief executive and chief executive with salaries to match their titles but not their abilities!
    The staff pay in up to 6.8% of salary depending upon their salary band and the last pension in payment increase was 4.5%!!!
    The shared service companies only set-up by councils after the government threatened them with further cuts to their budgets are staffed by ex council employees who simply job hop from council to what is termed Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMO’s) who are provided with LGA equivalent pension terms making the nonsense of an ALMO plain to see. Many of these are housing associations, but not all.
    I would like to see TPA tackle the issue of ring fencing pension entitlement to say £40k of final salary (and an end to final salary for LGA) with the rest being made on a money purchase basis and for ALMO’s to fund themselves and not from council taxpayers pockets.
    This is a huge issue for taxpayers along with the BBC pension sheme (in deficit and will be requiring taxpayer funding at some pint), MP’s and Lord’s pensions schemes, also funded from taxpayers.
    Eric Pickles can sort this out along with the ludicrous lump sum payments made to council job hoppers, who often take their pension, lump sum plus a further lump sum payment often in excess of £100k and in some cases £450k!
    The councillors’ pensions (£7 million a year) is not even a drop in the ocean in comparison to the liability for the local government pensions.

  • [email protected]

    You’ll hate this but you are so very wrong. Councillors need to be professional. They deal with budgtes often in tens of millions of pounds. They oversee capital projects similarly huge. Their responsibilities mean that it really isn’t like Vicar of Dibley any more. I use part of my (taxable) allowance to buy time off work for council duties. I lose out on both net pay and works pension because of that. If you want capable members who can deal with complexity and technolgy then they need to be professionally qualified. Who do you want representing your ward, a retired colnel or a working person who understands the modern world? My employer allows me to do council work, but i have lost any chance of a career because of it. I’m in the LGPS, but don’t think its gold plated- i’ll get about £20 per week at 65 in 15 years time!
    Don’t listen to people who have their own agenda. Question everything and find out the truth for yourselves. That by the way is what we do. And if being a councillor is so good, why is it so hard to find people willing to do it?