Local councillors should work for their community not pensions

Eric PicklesPA

Those sneaky councillors: who knew they had jumped on the gold-plated pension bandwagon?

Local government councillors are meant to be pillars of community spirit who work voluntarily for their boroughs. However, it turns out that they have been reaping the benefits of very generous public sector pensions. Although they aren't salaried and don't have any pensionable pay, their pension entitlement is based on their expenses allowance, which can be up to £50,000 a year.

Not only does this mean that they benefit from fantastic pensions that most of us could only dream of, they also get access to life insurance for the councillors' spouse or partner and they have the ability to take an early retirement deal if they are voted out of the place in local government.

How did they get these benefits you may ask? Well, in a very cynical move it seems that the Labour government pushed councillor pensions through on the quiet.

It's another public sector pension disgrace that we can do without out and Eric Pickles (pictured), secretary of state for communities and local government, is right to call time on this practice.

There is little faith in our central government and in our local government, and pension benefits handed out willy-nilly does little to engender trust in the people that run our communities.

The truth is that these benefits give rise to career councillors and politicians, who are not working for the people but who are working to line their own pockets – albeit legally.

We need councillors and politicians who are not attracted to their roles by the promise of inflated allowances, pensions and an open expenses wallet – we need people in positions of power that want to change their communities for the better.

Brandon Lewis, minister for local government, said 'councillors are civic volunteers undertaking public service, they are not, and should not be, state employees of the council dependant on the municipal payroll'.

I couldn't agree with that sentiment more. Councils are stretched in the services that they provide; they cannot afford to fund the retirements of those who are not entitled to public sector pensions.

It will be interesting to see the shift in the number of people who volunteer their time or continue in their posts after the pension changes. But at least those councillors that remain, prove that they are they are there for local residents.
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