Pension fund authorities Cumbria CC and Northumberland CC have challenged deals giving local district council chief executives consolidated salary and returning officer fees, saying they contravene DETR guidance on local government pensions.
But the Employers' Organisation and the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives are both happy with the deals, which is a negotiable issue in local pay reviews. They have called for clarification from the DETR.
One of those caught in the dispute is Carlisle City Council chief executive Rodney Brackley.
'It means clearly that one becomes uncertain about pension rights which is not good when drawing towards the end of one's career,' he said.
Barbara Wood, Cumbria's assistant pension manager, said DETR guidance stated that election duties needed to be classed as separate employment.
She said consolidating returning officer fees substantially increased the basic pension and could have huge cost consequences.
ALACE chairman Alastair Robertson said clarification of the DETR rules was needed.