Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by National Association of Councillors (LGA 40)

  The National Association of Councillors have welcomed the Local Government Act 2000 which has given a truly flexible approach to local governance in many areas.

  During the consultation process the NAC has highlighted the need for Government to revisit two areas as follows:


  The Act should include provision for payment of pensions to all local authority elected members, and not just those who are members of the executive or chairs of scrutiny or overview committees. It is the view of our membership that excluding non-executive councillors other than chairs of scrutiny and overview committees is divisive and devalues the perceived role of non cabinet and community champions in the newly established council structure. It is also contrary to equal opportunity principles in view of the under-representation of ethnic minorities and women in senior Council positions.

  The consultation document proposes that the independent remuneration panels should make recommendations on which members of an authority are entitled to joint the Local Government Pension Scheme. The requirement for one member of the panel to have pensions expertise, although desirable, is unnecessarily prescriptive. The remuneration panel would, as a matter of good practice, look to have some expert technical advice on the operation of pension schemes. It is already proving difficult to recruit people with the necessary background and expertise to serve on remuneration panels. The requirement for a pensions expert as well as being unnecessary, may prove extremely difficult in practice to implement.

  The Association remain resolute in their view that local authorities are best placed to decide on the principle of offering pensions to its members. In practice, many councillors who are already retired or semi-retired or who have accrued pension entitlement through their full-time employment, may not wish to take up the offer of a local authority pension. This, however, should be a decision for the individual councillors taking account of their own financial and personal circumstances.


  Provisions in the Local Government Act 2000 allow for the introduction of gratuity payments for retiring councillors. This is a key plank of the National Association of Councillors "Restoring the Balance Campaign" which commands a great deal of support amongst councillors and back bench MPs of all parties in Parliament. It is the view of the National Association of Councillors that introducing a system of gratuities for retiring councillors is in accord with the government's views set out in the White Paper Modern Local Government: In Touch with the People. Gratuity allowances for retiring members would reinforce the culture of the modern council and addresses as far as possible a significant disincentive to serving in local politics as an elected member. The NAC have made separate representations on this issue of gratuities to the Local Government Minister.

  To make comment to the response from the Minister, Councillors are not driven by financial rewards. A one-off payment may give a 65-year-old Councillor some dignity when retiring after 30 years, but I am sure it would only be a minor factor in the decision.

  An example in the scheme the Republic of Ireland has introduced. The Minister Noel Dempsey TD believes that the gratuity went some way to opening up opportunities for the young and encouraging a better gender balance. (His comments can be seen on page 6 of the Councillor Magazine).

  The Welsh Assembly have introduced a scheme for the Councils of Wales (see Appendix) Northern Ireland and Scotland are in the process of consultation. The Association believes that all elected members should be treated the same throughout the UK.

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