Local authority social workers accept changes to pension scheme

Social workers and other staff on middle incomes will no longer have to pay higher employee contributions to their pensions in 2014, after union members voted to accept revised proposals to reform the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Social workers and other local authority staff have voted overwhelmingly in favour of accepting revised proposals for reforming the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

The latest offer proposes freezing employee contribution rates for 2014 at current levels in several income groups, including those earning between £21,001 and £43,000 – a bracket likely to include the majority of social workers.

Around nine out of 10 members of the three main unions representing local government staff, Unison, Unite and the GMB, voted last week to accept, as did 93% of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) members.

The government will now undertake a statutory consultation process in order to implement the proposals.

Despite the contribution rate freezes, several key planks of the government’s pension reforms remained unchanged in the new offer. These include plans to shift the LGPS pension from a final salary to a career average scheme and to link pensions to state retirement age, which will rise to 66 from 2020 and to 68 by 2045.

The government originally also proposed to hike up employee contributions by an average of three percentage points, following Lord Hutton’s recommendations on how to make the scheme more sustainable.

But the proposals were met with resistance from unions and staff, culminating in a national strike last November.

“There was great anger and frustration at the government’s original proposals for the LGPS,” said Brian Strutton, GMB’s national secretary for public services.

“The new proposals represent a fair and balanced outcome which means the pension scheme will remain affordable and sustainable.”

Peter Allenson, Unite’s national officer for local government, added: “Our members took strike action and as a result they got a better deal. The strike action was followed by constructive negotiations, which we are pleased ended in an agreement which was acceptable to our members.”

Merrick Cockell, chairman of the LGA, said: “The overwhelming level of support for these proposals is very encouraging, and demonstrates the commitment among employers in local government to a manageable scheme that gives staff a decent pension when they retire.”

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