Fighting for fair pensions in local government

A message from Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary

I am writing to keep you up to date on negotiations over the future of your pension.

A lot has been happening since the 30 November day of action forced ministers to negotiate properly.

In December, ministers agreed a timetable and framework for talks on a future local government pension scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland drawn up by the unions and local government employers.

In Scotland, where pensions are a devolved matter and there is a separate Scottish LGPS, there have been no proposals to alter the scheme, or increase contributions.

Following the strike, south of the border, local government secretary Eric Pickles withdrew plans for increased contribution benefits and a worse accrual rate from April this year.

This has allowed talks to take place between the unions and employers, on the basis of no changes at all until 2014, after the next evaluation of the scheme.

Unions are negotiating on the basis of trying to avoid any contribution increase at all, or at the least for most members.

Discussions have continued on the ‘big ticket’ items which will form the basis of your pension from 2014, with sub-groups looking at issues such as part-time workers’ contributions, how much of your pay is pensionable, zero-hours contracts and the big task of looking at pension fund governance, including member-nominated trustees, to make the scheme more transparent, accountable and democratic.

We have made proposals to the Treasury and department of communities and local government about the possible structure of the ‘new’ scheme and are waiting for their response.

As soon as we have definite news, we will let you all know.

The ‘big ticket’ items are:

  • the type of scheme;
  • the accrual rate;
  • the revaluation rate;
  • your contributions;
  • the pension age;
  • protection.

The new LGPS from 2014 is likely to be a Care scheme (short for Career Average Re-valued Earnings scheme).

At present it is a ‘final salary’ scheme, with your pension based on your final pensionable pay in the year that you retire – or the best of the previous two years.

Care and ‘final salary’ pensions both have ‘defined benefits’.

You can get a detailed explanation of what a Care scheme is on the pensions pages on the UNISON website at

How good or bad a Care scheme is for members will depend on two things: the accrual rate and the revaluation rate (by how much the value of previous years’ salary is increased – or revalued – to account for inflation).

In UNISON the talks are being overseen by an LGPS scrutiny group, chaired by Jane Carolan, who chairs the union’s service group liaison committee.

This lay member group includes the chairs and vice chairs of the service group executives whose members are in the LGPS, or their nominees.

Specifically, these are:

  • local government: Jonathan Sedgebeer and Carole Maleham;
  • police and justice: Caryl Nobbs and Chris Hanrahan;
  • higher education: Denise Ward and Andrew Beach;
  • community: Stephen Brown and Mary Powell;
  • water, energy and transport: Ruth Davies and Pam Sian,

They are joined by the negotiating team of Chris Tansley, vice president, Heather Wakefield, national secretary for local government, police and justice and Glyn Jenkins, head of pensions.

So when will you know the outcome of the talks and how will you have your say?

The negotiators from the joint unions and the Local Government Association made proposals to the Treasury and the department for communities and local government over the ‘big ticket’ items, and we are waiting to hear what they think of them.

We are also waiting on information from government and fund actuaries.

There will be further negotiation after that, but we hope that you will have the chance to have your say over the ‘big ticket’ items in the new scheme in a postal ballot starting in March.

The negotiating team will hold regional briefings and provide materials on the new scheme before the ballot so that you know exactly what you are voting on.

Watch this space!