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Councillor pensions abolition will 'demotivate the troops'

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Ministers’ decision to abolish councillor pensions will “demotivate their troops” ahead of local and European elections and reduce the quality of local decisionmaking, figures from across the political spectrum have warned.

Ministers’ decision to abolish councillor pensions will “demotivate their troops” ahead of local and European elections and reduce the quality of local decisionmaking, figures from across the political spectrum have warned.

Concerns have arisen following the government’s publication this month of regulations removing members’ access to the local ­government pension scheme.

LGC understands senior councillors from all parties are giving up hope that they can change ministers’ minds on the issue.

Labour has pledged to vote against the measure in Parliament and is discussing whether to make a policy commitment to bring the pensions back in a future government, one senior source said.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat group, said he was “livid” about ministers’ plan.

“The Liberal Democrats in government have been fighting hard for us but they met with rock solid opposition from the Conservatives on the issue,” he said.

“For all the main parties, councillors are the foot soldiers who do the work at elections. We’re just coming up to the European elections and we need people to be fighting Ukip, but the prime minister and the Tories seem to be doing everything in their power to demotivate their troops so Ukip can walk all over us.”

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said it was difficult to get professionals to be councillors because of the low pay, adding that he received just £28,000 per year including expenses to lead Portsmouth City Council, an authority with a £520m budget.

“If [removal of the ­pension] makes it harder to get good professional people to be councillors, decision making will be worse,” he added.

Labour MP Clive Betts, chair of the communities and local government select committee, told LGC the move was “another barrier to people of working age being councillors, when the average age is already 60.”

He added that he had been assured Labour would oppose the measure in Parliament and said he wanted a future Labour government to reinstate councillor pensions.

Sharon Taylor (Lab), deputy leader of the LGA Labour group, said pensions “enabled a much wider group of people to start thinking about becoming a ­councillor”.

She said: “Without pensions, we’ll only get people with independent wealth or who are already pensioners. We need councillors from the whole age range.”

LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell (Con) has already described the abolition of councillor pensions as a “kick in the teeth” and warned it risked turning local government into “the ­exclusive preserve of a privileged few”.

 

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