Anger over councillors’ pensions

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MORE than a third of Sunderland councillors claim taxpayer-funded pensions, adding to a pensions bill of more than £100 per person in the city.

Figures released by campaign group The Taxpayers’ Alliance show 33 councillors opted in to the authority’s pension scheme in 2010/11 – nine more than were on the list in 2009/10.

The report also shows Sunderland City Council paid £29,243,830 in employer pension contributions in 2010/11, up £546,000 from the previous year.

The group said this worked out at £103.15 per head in Sunderland, and claimed nationally £1 of every £5 paid in council tax went on local authority pensions.

Matthew Sinclair, director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s unacceptable that ordinary families and pensioners, who have seen council tax bills almost double in the last decade, have so much of their money spent on council pensions.

“These gold-plated retirement deals have all but disappeared in the private sector and it simply isn’t sustainable to keep the system as it is.

“These figures show the urgent need to reform the outdated Local Government Pension Scheme and to tackle the growing trend of councillors joining.”

Unions have already defended council workers and other public sector employees against accusations they have “gold-plated” pensions.

During the pensions strikes in November, unions said released figures showing the average pension in local government is £4,000 – just £2,800 a year, less than £56 per week.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council, which administers the pension fund for all councils in Tyne and Wear, said: “The Tyne and Wear Pension Fund is part of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and is governed by regulations set by Central Government.

“South Tyneside Council administers the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund in accordance with these regulations.

“Eligible council employees and councillors are able join the Local Government Pension Scheme. Whether they exercise this right, or not, is down to individual choice.”

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