Monday, April 02, 2012

LGPS - No news still not good news

Today's LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) "Protect Our Pensions" Bulletin 16 from the UNISON Centre reveals the following;

"Members and activists will be wondering where the negotiations over the LGPS have got to.... The joint negotiating team and the Governance and Administration sub groups have continued to meet on a regular basis, the most recent meeting of the negotiating 'Project ' team being this afternoon - Monday 2 April.

The negotiations are moving in a positive direction, in line with the agreed principles agreed before Christmas. However, it is obviously crucial that we ensure that every possible element of a possible new scheme is fully considered and that we explore all options in order to get the best possible deal for members. This has required a significant amount of work by actuaries and others and it is therefore not yet possible to produce final proposals.

We hope that we will be in a position to give you full details before the end of April so that the all-member ballot can commence around the start of May."

This (slightly) informative bulletin is only the tiniest bit confusing, since the last bulletin, released three weeks ago, told us that "The joint LGA - Trade Union Project Team which is negotiating over the LGPS from 2014 submitted outline proposals on 13 February to DCLG and the Treasury. Unfortunately, the government has not yet come back to us with a response to them and so there is nothing to report on the negotiations in today's newsletter. We are extremely disappointed at this and have made very strong representations to government over the unnecessary delay in our timetable. Our timetable is carefully detailed in the documents underpinning the negotiations at www.lgps.org.uk."

Since, as I understand it (and I'm relying on well informed readers who may wish to remain anonymous to correct me if necessary) the Government have still to respond to the outline proposals, I'm not sure that it's simply the workload of actuaries (and others) which means that " it is therefore not yet possible to produce final proposals."

The silence of this week's bulletin on the question of what the Government is up to is genuinely perplexing. Of equal concern is the non-sequiter contained in the sentence; "The negotiations are moving in a positive direction, in line with the agreed principles agreed before Christmas."

Since the "principles agreed before Christmas" included linking normal retirement age to the (now even more rapidly advancing) state pension age; a shift to career averages (contrary to Local Government Service Group Conference Policy) and acceptance that pensions in payment will be uprated in line with the CPI rather than the RPI I fail to see how this can possibly be a "positive direction."

All things considered I really cannot get too worked up about "the unnecessary delay in our timetable" whether this is due (as we were told three weeks ago) to Government delays or (as we were told today) to the enormous workload of actuaries (and others). As a rule, when the employers or the Government are about to do something like this to us, it's better and more comfortable if they do it more slowly.

As far as I can see, the only real imperative to getting a ballot of members underway before June's Service Group Conferences is to avoid the danger that Conference delegates might still be influenced by the dangerous rhetoric of the leftist speaker who said last year "to those who say 'name the day', I say a day won't be enough" (http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2341). A lot of UNISON members still think he was right.
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