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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Pensions and the Taxpayers Alliance

Back to pensions today. The so-called Taxpayers Alliance has yet again rehashed their dodgy dossier to claim that that local government pensions face a black hole.

I presume the business funders of this organisation have worked out that this is good value for money. They cut their own workers pensions, whack up their own personal pension pots and then set up a lobby organisation to persuade everyone that it is all the fault of the quality pension schemes.

Today’s allegations are particularly stupid. Their claims are based on the nonsensical supposition that everyone is going to retire at once, tomorrow. Neither do these pensions cost £1 of every £5 of council tax, because council tax makes up only a small percentage of funding.

In fact the local government pension scheme is affordable and sustainable and its income exceeded expenditure by almost £6 billion in the last year. In Scotland we have a fully funded new scheme that includes increased staff contributions. The scheme provides very modest pensions to low paid staff who otherwise would rely on state benefits. What we need is some perspective here and a move away from a race to the bottom on pensions.


  1. Dave, do you think that the pensions actuaries who write the reports for council's own accounts are "stupid" or "nonsensical"? It is they who calculate these deficits, and they do it for a good reason. You need to monitor assets and liabilities over the long term to plan properly for actually being able to fund the pensions.

    By promoting the idea that these massive black holes should be ignored because the pension holders won't retire for some years is foolish, short-termist and irresponsible.

    Worst of all, you are letting down your members by behaving like this. There is a very real danger that one day there literally won't be enough money to pay their pensions out - but your response is simply to insist that there will be and reject any discussion of the problem. Closing your eyes won't make it go away.

    More here: http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/campaign/2010/03/unison-the-lga-and-the-politics-of-alice-in-wonderland.html

  2. Iain Montgomery7 March 2010 at 19:21

    As actuaries base their reports on the worst-case, but easy to calculate scenario of all liabilities falling due immediately, yes they could be described as "stupid" or "nonsensical. Lazy would be just as relevant.

    The so-called black holes are calculated on a basis that will never exist in real life. But acknowledging that wouldn't suit your political agenda which has nothing to do with serving "the taxpayer", of which I am one, but everything to do with serving the people who fund your organisation.

    Dave Watson does an excellent job, and you should be aware that we are not "his members". He understands his responsibilities as he is our employee. Not a concept you and your self-centred cronies are likely to be comfortable with.