A MOVE to scrap pensions for councillors is “the wrong decision”, according to the leader of Bolton Council.
The government has confirmed that new councillors will not be entitled to taxpayer-funded pensions from April 1, while existing members with a pension will have their policy stopped at the end of their current term of office.
Since 1997, the pension scheme was open to all councillors and elected council mayors, aged under 75, on an opt-in basis if they contributed six per cent of their pay
Benefits included a tax-free lump sum when they retire, a pension based on councillors’ average career pay and voluntary retirement from the age of 60.
Now Cllr Cliff Morris, the Labour leader of the council, has said he would urge the government to think again on the plans, as it would create a double standard with councillors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still be part of the scheme.
He said: “It is perplexing that ministers who have been busy adding to the workload of councillors by transferring functions from central to local government are now arguing that those same councillors — and the Mayor of London — should be classed as volunteers.
“Fair remuneration is important so people from all walks of life can afford to stand for office.
“Otherwise, we risk local government becoming the exclusive preserve of a privileged few who have the luxury of time and money to spare.
“Those who give their time and efforts to take on this responsibility should be no less entitled to a pension than an MP.”
But Conservative group leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said the government’s decision was the right call.
He said: “I just feel it’s not appropriate. I never view councillors as council employees — I think most members of the public will be very surprised to learn that councillors could take advantage of the scheme.
“To be a councillor is more of a vocation and about serving your community.”
Bolton Lib Dem leader Cllr Roger Hayes backed Cllr Morris’ stance.
He said: “I’ve never taken it up and I don’t think anyone from our group has, but for young people coming in I don’t see why councillors shouldn’t get a pensions.
“I think it’s a shame. I think it will discourage younger people considering becoming councillors.
“We’re here to serve the community, and most people who go into politics give up a lot to do it.”
Councillors get a basic allowance of £11,082, with more for any additional responsibilities.