A “sensible solution” has been demanded in the row over councillors’ pensions after local government minister Brandon Lewis indicated he would consider allowing senior councillors to stay in the local government pension scheme.
The Department for Communities & Local Government barred councillors from the LGPS from 1 April, prompting anger within councils. Labour unsuccessfully attempted to have the move overturned in the House of Lords.
However, at the National Association of Pension Funds local authority conference this week, Mr Lewis said: “[The government] is open to councils making the case for executive councillors and leaders [maintaining scheme membership] but no councillors have yet done that.”
Mr Lewis was responding to a comment from Ken Rigby (Lib Dem), of Nottinghamshire CC, who accused the minister of “dumping” councillors from the LGPS while putting “your snout in the trough” of the ministerial and MP pension schemes.
Following the event, LGA Liberal Democrat group leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said a situation in which only certain councillors could access the LGPS would be problematic.
Mr Vernon-Jackson said: “It would be good to see a sensible scheme produced by government.
“The issue is that councillors change roles over time, so you would need a system that takes account of that.
“I hope that ministers come up with a system that means people who are on councils are not just people who are retired, on benefits or have private incomes. This move will make it even more difficult to get people to volunteer to become councillors.”
LGA Labour group leader Sharon Taylor said allowing some councillors LGPS access but not others would be “incomprehensible”.
She said: “Brandon Lewis is missing the point. Councillors should have access to the pension scheme – all of them. The role of councillors out there in our neighbourhoods is a different role from that of an executive but it is equally important.”
However, LGA Conservative group leader Gary Porter said he did not believe the option was still open for some councillors to access the pension. Mr Porter said: “That conversation is dead. It is not on the table.”