Councillors to get pension scheme

COUNCILLORS in Suffolk are set to benefit from a council tax-payer funded pension scheme – but it will not be introduced until after the next elections due in May 2005.

By Graham Dines

COUNCILLORS in Suffolk are set to benefit from a council tax-payer funded pension scheme – but it will not be introduced until after the next elections due in May 2005.

The move is part of a Government approved initiative to allow elected members to join the local government pension scheme, although membership will not be compulsory. As with employees, councillors would pay a contribution which would be matched by householders.

Councillors have also voted not to implement a scheme to compensate for child care arrangements while they are on official duties, although this is likely to be reconsidered after polling day.


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At yesterday's meeting of Suffolk County Council, a proposal backed by two Liberal Democrats, David Grutchfield and Kathy Pollard, to introduce the pension scheme immediately was thrown out by 57 votes to 8 with three abstentions.

An independent panel had recommended a raft of extra benefits for members, including the ability to join a pension scheme.

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But Tory Jane Storey said instead of burdening the council tax-payer, councillors should make their own provision by paying into a private scheme.

Mrs Pollard argued, however: "The Government says we need pensions and this has been backed by an independent panel appointed to advise us – who are we to throw it out? We have the lowest allowances in the East of England and we work hard for them."

Labour's Sandy Martin said increased allowances and a pension would ensure good quality councillors. "The electorate is grown up enough to accept that.

"What voters will not tolerate, however, is that having been elected under one set of rules, we then go and change them for our benefit.

"Introducing the pension scheme after the next election will ensure we are being honest with voters."

Tory Stefan Oliver said hard-pressed council tax-payers would not forgive "fat cat councillors at county hall voting themselves a pension."

Some expenses will be increased immediately. Some meal allowances go up – lunch from £5.85 to £7.70 and dinner from £7.25 to £9.52 – to bring them into line with council staff. The extra cost will be £7,000.

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