Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shall we be Pickled tomorrow?

A little bird (well, not so very little) has let on that those of us waiting to know if the Government will rubber stamp a draft "deal" done between negotiators dealing with the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) may hear some news from Eric Pickles tomorrow.

If we do, it may be that we will then hear some justification as to why we must move to ballot our members immediately (and - crucially in the case of the vast majority of affected members who are in the Local Government Service Group - ahead of our Service Group Conference in June).

Such a justification may relate to the need for Regulations to go through Parliament sufficiently in advance to enable implementation of a new scheme from April 2014.

It may therefore be worth recollecting that the current Regulations dealing with the administration of the LGPS were made and laid before Parliament in February 2008 in order to come into force on 1 April 2008 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/239/introduction/made).

It's true that the Regulations dealing with benefits, membership and contributions (which we must now learn to call "big ticket items") were made and laid before Parliament in April 2007 in order to come into force on 1 April 2008 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/1166/introduction/made).

It's also true that if - in spite of the clear policy of our Local Government Conference 2010 in support of a final salary LGPS - we are looking to move to a career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme, then the transition from the 2008 to the 2014 may be more complex than the transition to the 2008 scheme.

Career average pensions are not quantum physics though. A Maths A-level ought to be more than enough to grasp the workings out. There is no genuine and honest reason why the Government or the employers need a response from the trade unions on the 2014 scheme offer before (say) 1 October (and I'm sure that 1 April 2013 would still be a workable timetable if the will was there).

There is no genuine and honest reason why we should have to ballot members before our Local Government Conference has an opportunity to express a view as to the recommendation to be made to members in a ballot - as it was able to do in relation to Single Status.

If, however, the Service Group Executive is to be dragooned into making a recommendation this week, it ought to remember the policy of Service Group Conference - and that it lacks the constitutional authority to recommend acceptance of a career average pension without a change in Conference policy.

No doubt if officers do try to cajole the Service Group Executive into a hasty decision they will also have a detailed Equality Impact Assessment for the proposed 2014 scheme (after all, they have known for weeks what deal they have done on behalf of those of us who are actually members of the LGPS). Were that not to be the case, the hypocrisy of recommending a hasty ballot would surely be too much for even the hardiest souls at the UNISON Centre.

Normally, being pickled takes some time. Perhaps this week we shall witness accelerated pickling of our pensions?

I hope not.

Watch this space...

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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