Defending the Local Government Pension Scheme

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2011 Local Government Service Group Conference
10 June 2011

This Conference condemns the Coalition government’s ongoing attacks on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and welcomes the Service Group Executive’s statement of its response to those attacks issued in November 2010. Conference condemns the:

1)3% increase in employee subscriptions by 2014/15 required in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review;

2)Switch from RPI to CPI for up-rating purposes;

3)Outcomes of the Hutton review;

4)Threat to Fair Pensions and admitted body status

This Conference also recognises that our pensions are a key part of our package of conditions of service. Conference recollects that last year’s Local Government Conference expressed alarm at the ongoing attacks on the LGPS from politicians, local councils, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the CBI, the Institute of Directors and sections of the media. Conference recognises that this year the attack upon the LGPS comes primarily from the Government as part of a wholesale attack on the public sector workforce generally and, in particular, on public service pensions.

Conference notes that these attacks are attacks not only on the LGPS but also on all public service pension schemes. We believe that a unified response from the trade union movement is our best hope to stop the Coalition Government from attacking our pensions.

Conference recognises the excellent work that UNISON has previously done to protect the LGPS and notes the changes already made to the LGPS in 2008, the increase in contributions and the changes to benefits. We express concern at the fact that 10% of our low paid members are currently not in the scheme because they cannot afford to be.

Conference also notes that the scheme is a viable, funded scheme, that contributions exceed outgoings and investments from the LGPS are critical to the UK economy. We regret that most funds do not have Member Nominated Representatives (MNR’s) with a real say over the running of funds and investments, in line with European law. We believe that the management of pension funds should have at least fifty per cent of each LGPS Pension Committee membership formed by the future beneficiaries who are trained and nominated from trade unionists.

This Conference is concerned that members will be required to make decisions on future changes to the LGPS that will be technical, but will be portrayed as simple to understand and necessary. To enable members to be fully informed about the future decisions on alternative proposals it is vital that they fully understand the present scheme as well as possible changes.

Conference therefore calls upon the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

a)Mount the strongest possible campaign against detrimental changes to the LGPS and to retain the principle existing benefits, alongside other Service Groups and trade unions covered by the scheme and the National Executive Council;

b)Explore the use of on-line campaigning to raise awareness with the public to the damaging myths being promoted by the government about the LGPS;

c)Work with other trade unions to defend and improve pensions provision throughout the workforce and to ensure that pensioners have a decent standard of living in retirement. We must not allow public and private sector workers to be played off against one another;

d)Work with Labour Link and the General Political Fund to inform and campaign alongside councillors and MP’s;

e)Make preparations for early lawful industrial action within UNISON’s rules and co-ordinate with other trade unions;

f)Carry out further research to demonstrate the viability of the LGPS and its importance to members and the economy and publicise it widely, including among members;

g)Continue to build a strong network of LGPS contacts in branches and Regions to inform members and further build our campaign;

h)Support the regions in the development of cross service group campaigning networks to ensure that the pensioners campaign groups and branch’s work together on events and media campaigns to protect the LGPS;

i)Produce advice and guidance on possible alternatives to the existing scheme and the merits compared to the existing scheme benefits so that members, branches and regions can begin to make informed choices when required to do so;

j)Consult members on what type of scheme they wish to have that is fair, realistic and sustainable and which can provide adequate retirement income;

k)Maintain the strongest possible press and media campaign to inform the public of our case;

l)Encourage regions to involve retired members as ‘real people’ affected by the cuts and proposed changes to the LGPS in all media campaigns e.g. cleaners, midday supervisors, nursing staff, library staff, technicians, teaching assistants, admin staff, site management staff etc;

m)Continue to press for more MNR’s and training to support their active involvement in the LGPS and for Pensions Committee to comprise of fifty per cent membership of members nominated from trained members of trade unions