BOLTON councillors have produced mixed reactions to the news that they can no longer qualify for local government pension schemes.
Brandon Lewis, the undersecretary of state for communities and local government, has announced the launch of a consultation on plans to stop councillors’ access to taxpayer-funded pension schemes from April 2014.
He said the current set-up contributed to a “corrosive influence on local democracy”
which “blurred the distinction between council staff and councillors”.
He said: “Councillors are volunteers undertaking public service.
“They are not professional, full-time politicians, nor should they be encouraged to become so.”
Cllr Linda Thomas, Bolton Council’s deputy leader and Labour councillor for Halliwell, said: “The role of local councillors now is as demanding on time and effort as it is on those in national office.
“Many councillors forgo their careers and hence the ability to increase their pension contributions, which would have been the case if they not been elected as councillors to serve the public.
“Once again the government is jumping on the populist band wagon, downgrading the worth of local councillors, which will do nothing to encourage those on low incomes and women who often juggle families, jobs and their council duties to become local voices for their communities.”
Bolton Conservative leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said: “I welcome the proposals.
“I have always disagreed with taxpayers’ money contributing to make up councillors’ pensions and have thought it wrong that councillors were ever included in the council pension scheme.
“I do not take advantage of the scheme and never have.”
Conservative deputy leader Cllr Andy Morgan said: “Councillors are not employees of the council and should never have been given the opportunity to join the scheme in the first place.
“When we are in such financial dire straits, such perks which are costing the taxpayer have to be sacrificed.”
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Roger Hayes disagreed with the plans.
He said: “I have never taken up the option of the local government pension scheme as I am well covered by pensions earned in my employment in private industry.
“I do not believe that any of my group is in the scheme either.
“However, I believe it is right that younger councillors, who often give many hours of work for their constituents, should be able to go into the scheme if they wish, so I regret the decision of the government.”