Tomorrow UK residents will be party to a swathe of political figures touring the TV stations putting the case that ordinary public servants are bankrupting the nation with their ‘gold plated’ pension pots. The public servants in question are teachers, nurses, immigration officers, civil servants.
There are some things that Francis Maude and Danny Alexander may ‘forget’ to mention. To take civil servants as an example, the average salary for civil servants is, according the UK Government’s own Office of National Statistics, £22,850 per year, a figure that includes in its calculation the six-figure salaries of the upper echelons which suggests the median salary is lower than that quoted. By contrast the average salary in the private sector is £24,970.
So, what is the ‘gold plated’ pension of which Maude, Alexander and the rest of coalition Government speak that’s given after a lifetime of service? Under the ‘improved‘ agreements a 30-year-old civil servant on the average wage with 10 years’ service will as a result of the reforms need to work an extra eight years and still lose over £115,000 from their total pension package. All this while the average pension paid to former civil servants is just £4,200 per year.
At the same time one thing I can guarantee is that Mr Maude and Mr Alexander will not be transparent with the British public about the value of their own pension pots (exclusive of course from their paid directorships for negligible work and the rest of the post-Government gravy train). All MPs are members of an exclusive pension scheme called the Parliamentary Pension Scheme which closer examination shows to go beyond mere gold plating, it is gold through and through.
The House of Commons Information Office’s own summary of the scheme reveals the following: 1. Unlike the 40-50 years of work being demanded of public servants to receive a full pension, MPs have to work only 20 years (yes, you read that right!); 2. They receive an annual salary of approximately £66,000 (exclusive of the multitude of Directorships – the majority of the Cabinet are millionaires in their own right) which amounts to a little under treble that of the ‘gold plated’ average pay of civil servants; 3. An annual accrual rate of 1/40th (most public sector pensions are 1/80th); 4. A pension payment that is linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) which is the index the Government is seeking to move away from in public pensions.
Some Ministers like to quote the refrain that ‘we’re all in this together’. In fact, on Monday the Education Secretary Michael Gove had the effrontery to allege that the government’s plans were ‘fair to all’. I am sure on November 30th these same ministers will be saying rather less about their own ‘gold through and through’ pensions. It seems, in a scene reminiscent of the closing scene of Orwell’s Animal Farm ‘fair to all’ presumably means ‘everyone else can suffer as long as we’re OK’.