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Taxpayers helping fund councillors’ pension scheme
1:00pm Tuesday 20th August 2013 in Local News
TAXPAYERS have contributed £80,000 to an Essex county councillor pension fund, figures show.
The money was paid to the Essex County Council Local Government Pension scheme in 2012/13, despite the authority having to make millions of pounds in savings.
One third of the authority’s 75 councillors are members of the scheme, which offers a pension based on career average allowances,a tax-free lump sum on retirement and life cover.
The scheme was introduced in the early 2000s in a bid to encourage more people from a wider range of backgrounds and ages to stand as councillors.
But Kerry Smith, Ukip county councillor for Westley Heights, in Basildon, said: “After I got elected in May, I got a big pack with information on the scheme, but I just ripped it up straight away.
“It’s disgusting – what if I’m a one term wonder? You should not get a pension for serving that short period of time. The money councillors are paid is an allowance. It isn’t a wage, so if they really wanted a pension they should walk down the High Street and get a private one.
“State pensions are gold plated, but taxpayers fill in that black hole.”
The 25 councillors in the pension scheme made their own collective contribution of £38,000 last year, but this was topped up with money from Essex taxpayers.
Last year, the Government announced it wanted to end state funded pensions.
Local government minister Brandon Lewis said at the time: “Councillors are volunteers undertaking public service – they are not and should not be employees of the council dependent on the municipal payroll.”
The scheme was brought in by the Labour government in 2003, but councillors on county, unitary and borough authorities can choose to opt in or out.
Research from campaign group the Taxpayer’s Alliance shows in 2010/11, no councillors serving on the county’s 12 borough councils – except Epping Forest and Uttlesford–signed up to the scheme.
The Tory authority’s leader David Finch, who pays into the scheme, defended it – but admitted it may be axed as part of his council’s austerity drive.
He said: “I do understand Mr Lewis’s argument in part, but Essex County Council is a £2.2billion organisation, and when you are that big, then it is the equivalent of a full-time job.
“Councillors who are elected are expected to put a lot of time and effort into dealing with council business and attending meetings.
“I do on average 14 hours a day, six days a week.”
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