Big focus on pensions for me this week as I am running a series of training courses for our new branch Pensions Champions. Nearly a hundred have signed up for courses across Scotland.
The main aim of the course is to get our branch leads up to scratch on the big pension issues. The key focus is on the Con-Dem coalition's attack on public service pensions that can be summed up as - pay more, work longer, get less. But let's not forget the proposed changes to the state retirement pension. Sounds good on paper, but it is as yet unclear what will happen to the contracting out arrangements. If these go to pay for the £140, then that will be a further tax on employees and employers. In the public and voluntary sector we can do without even more cost pressures.
In the public service schemes the main concern is the planned 50% increase in pension contributions. Members on the course this week confirmed our concern that this will result in a major opt out of the scheme. Members simply cannot afford that sort of increase when they are facing real term pay cuts and rising inflation. The consequences will be more pensioner poverty and greater reliance on welfare benefits.
Whilst the initiative for these changes comes from the UK government, implementation will largely fall on the Scottish Parliament because public service scheme regulation is a devolved matter. Something that was clearly not well understood by commentators and politicians during the election debates. Latest on these issues can be found in the new edition of our Scottish Pensions Bulletin.