Town Hall pensions bust-up

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WIGAN Council today accused a pressure group of using “distorted” statistics in a row over taxpayer contributions to the town hall pension scheme.

And it also said it was legally obliged to offer scheme membership to elected members as latest figures obtained by the Taxpayers’ Alliance show 31 of the borough’s 75 councillors are now in it and so putting an extra burden on the public purse.

There is nothing unlawful in what councillors are doing and is common practice in about half of Britain’s local authorities.

But a TPA spokesman said: “There is a growing number of councillors joining the Local Government Pensions scheme and this represents an increasing cost to taxpayers who fund these generous retirement deals.

“As more and more councillors sign up to the LGPS then Wigan’s households risk seeing a larger share of their council tax being spent not on local services, but on pensions for politicians. Despite fulfilling a supposedly voluntary role, there are now 4,548 on the LPGS, up by over 1,000 since 2007-2008.”

The Alliance today claimed that nationally £1 for every £5 paid in council tax is now going into the retirement pot. In Wigan the council contribution for 2009 to 2010 was £13.9m, rising to £14.7m in 2010 to 2011. The contribution per head of population of £47.91 is much lower than the national average. Some authority areas are putting well over £100 per head in the fund.

And Wigan Council’s Director of Corporate Services, Paul McKevitt, said: “Public sector spending is an emotive issue at present, particularly with regard to pensions. However statistics such as this can be used to distort the extent of and impact of such costs on the totality of council spending.

In this case the Council spent £964,000,000 in 2010/11 according to our Statement of Accounts.

“Of this expenditure around £116,000,000 was funded through council tax. Therefore to use Council tax receipts as means of expressing pensions costs for the organisation is clearly out of context.

The Council and its employees contribute to the Greater Manchester Pension scheme which is a fully funded pension scheme unlike some of the other public sector pension schemes.

“Under national rules the council is also legally obliged to offer all elected members an opportunity to join the pension scheme.”