Pensions - Changes afoot

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Last year I did three separate days training on pensions in Leeds, arranged by the county council.

Note that the Pensions Committee requires extensive training for members of the committee, which is quite correct given the fact we are looking after pensions for thousands of local authority employees.

During the training we were told about the new Pension Boards the government were going to impose on us, these boards being an added check and balance.

I was also told that there were plans afoot for the government to gain more control over pension funds, the target being they could ‘encourage’ much more investment in infrastructure.

George Osborne announced this at their conference last week, saying they would create six pooled pension funds with £30 billion in each. His numbers are correct. There is approximately £180 billion in the Local Authority Pension Funds. Lincolnshire has a pension fund of just over £1.7 billion and it is running very successfully.

This and other Local Authority funds are not public money. The pension fund in Lincolnshire cannot be touched by the county council or central government and nobody outside the pensions committee can influence how the fund is managed.

Now Osborne has said we will have to pool in some scheme that adds up to £30 billion and it must be done in an impossibly short period of time.

More importantly he has said emphasis must be on infrastructure investment.

It is obvious to everybody that the government sees the £180 billion as an irresistible juicy morsel that they can and will use to fund themselves, ostensibly on ‘infrastructure’. They will have to legislate to get their hands on this private money and there is no doubt they will do just that. So we will end up with some sort of piece of paper from the government in place of the hard cash we are at present looking after so carefully. We will become a minnow in a large pond as our county pension fund of £1.7 billion is swallowed up in a £30 billion pool. We will see the money spent on ‘infrastructure’, but I guarantee this won’t be money spent in poor old Lincolnshire. It will be spent on HS2, roads, bridges, you name it, but not here.

Once again the poorest funded county in the country, too scared to shout loud at the Westminster bullies, will be robbed at the same time as they continue to slash our budgets, the cuts now increasingly threatening critical front line services. By the way, this is only the thin end of the wedge. If they rob our pension funds there is nothing to stop them going for other private pensions. In this the anniversary year of the Magna Carta the robber barons have re-appeared. So much for the ‘Big Society’.

Colin Mair

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