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PENSIONERS PROMPT REDBRIDGE INQUIRY

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The Audit Commission is investigating complaints from retired Redbridge LBC officers about the circumstances surrou...
The Audit Commission is investigating complaints from retired Redbridge LBC officers about the circumstances surrounding cuts to their pensions.

Last year district auditor Janet Eilbeck published a public interest report into the payment of illegally enhanced pensions to 103 former officers (LGC, 12 September).

Ms Eilbeck, of Coopers & Lybrand, is still considering whether to surcharge former chief executive Geoff Price and former finance director Maurice Tilley. Both men deny they were to blame.

During the inquiry, nearly 2,400 pensioners had their payments reviewed and 103 retired officers have had their pensions cut. Three - Mr Price, Mr Tilley and his predecessor, Stewart Fuller - have been asked to repay some of the pension they have already received.

Representatives of the 100 other officers affected have since complained to the Audit Commission about aspects of the public interest report. In particular, they contest the auditor's assertion that the early retirement deal cost the council around£1.27 million. They argue that the scrapping of posts through early retirement saved the council around£14,000 per post per year.

Initially the commission passed the complaints on to Coopers & Lybrand, but last week director of purchasing Bruce Anderson wrote to one of the pensioners, former assistant treasurer Laurie Tomlinson, to say: 'We will be taking active steps to investigate a number of related complaints.'

Ms Eilbeck said the rules surrounding public interest reports prevented her from commenting on the pensioners' complaints.

In an article in this week's LGC, Malcolm Woollard, who was principal assistant engineer at the council when he retired in 1991, says the council should ensure the retired officers' pensions are restored.

Leader Liz Pearce, whose Labour group took control of Redbridge after the pensions had been agreed, has repeatedly said that the law leaves the council with no choice but to stop the unlawful payments.

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