Friday, May 11, 2012

News about Local Government Pensions?

A day later than promised, but never mind, the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) website today carries a joint statement from the employers and unions in response to the Queen's speech (http://www.lgps.org.uk/lge/core/page.do?pageId=15431012).

It says; "Publicity in respect of the Public Service Pensions Bill announced in the Queen's Speech referred to implementation of changes to the three largest schemes. Although the Bill will include all public service schemes in it's scope it should be clarified that the Local Government Pension Scheme is not one of the three schemes referred to. Discussions continue between local government unions, the LGA and government over the future design of the LGPS."

I can't help feeling that this statement tells us less than it might. Less, in fact, than we have previously been told or can reasonably deduce from what we have previously been told. In respect of the "big ticket items" (accrual, revaluation and contribution rates - also known as "workstream one") regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Blogger) will already know that, on 13 February, the negotiators (on both sides) put proposals to civil servants and that this led to a meeting with civil servants led to subsequent correspondence (which you can read on the LGPS website at the link above).

UNISON's National Head of Local Government told the Annual General Meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Local Government Committee that, if the Government did not agree to the (still unannounced) "deal" then other things might have to be "shaved off" the proposals, but could give no details.

Her manager, the Assistant General Secretary, told UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) that the hold up was over differing assessments of the cost implications of the "low cost option" in the future LGPS, which shed further light on the comments made by another of our negotiators at one of our Self-Organised Group Conferences, that our negotiators had exceeded the Government's cost ceiling.

It is therefore very clear that, if there are any further current negotiations in relation to the "big ticket items" of "workstream one" these can only now be about what to "shave off" from the deal struck, but never revealed, before 13 February. The discussions following that date were all about "workstream two" (which must logically deal with "little ticket items").

The mood music emanating from the UNISON Centre (where some officials have now had three months to prepare propaganda materials designed to "sell" a deal about which lay activists - with perhaps one illustrious exception - have been told next to nothing) is increasingly cheerful, not to say Panglossian.

Yesterday's otherwise uninformative bulletin (issued - with impeccable comic timing - whilst tens of thousands of other public servants were striking to protect pensions) told us, breathlessly, that

"Negotiations on the proposals for the 'new' LGPS are moving closer towards a conclusion. We hope that it won't be too long before we can let you all know what the outcome has been. Both the unions and the LGA team have done our very best to protect you - the LGPS members - and the scheme for the future. We want more people to join it and for it to be sustainable far into the future.

Thank you for your patience. The negotiating team realises that it has been difficult for you all to wait so long, but it has been a painstaking process and we needed to get it right. Negotiations are still ongoing on 'Workstream 2' - the new governance arrangements for the scheme and the 'cap and collar' arrangements. Obviously your negotiators are seeking to ensure what UNISON has long campaigned for - member nominated reps with real say within local funds - as well as at overall fund level. We have made it clear that we expect them to be nominated by UNISON and other unions so that there is collective accountability and established mechanisms for feed-back to members."

How exciting! Very soon people we pay (from our union subscriptions) to represent our interests (and for whom we have managed thus far to preserve a final salary pension scheme) will let us know what they have negotiated for us with our employers. We're told they've done a good deal (as have the lovely employers who are also apparently looking after our best interests rather than those of the voters to whom they are accountable) and so obviously it would be very rude if our Service Group Executives (SGEs) failed gratefully to recommend the outcome of this process of ("world-class") negotiation.

This is all the more so since we will have made such splendid progress on pension fund governance in the warm waters of "workstream two".

Whilst waiting for the details of the secret deal struck three months ago (as "shaved" later to appease the Government) I just have three questions;

Will this new LGPS require me to work beyond 65 to get an unreduced pension, with the pension age increasing to at least 68 for younger workers?

Will this new LGPS see pensions in payment uprated by CPI rather than RPI, reducing the lifetime value of my pension by up to 20%?

Will this new LGPS be a career average scheme, contrary to the policy of UNISON's Local Government Service Group as determined by our Conference in 2010?

Answers on a postcard to the UNISON Centre in the Euston Road.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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